Napalm Death – The World Keeps Turning EP

Genre: Death Metal | Label: Earache Records
Location: Birmingham, England| Listen: Bandcamp

napalm death the world keeps turning

During Napalm Death’s death metal years in the early 90’s, Earache had them releasing singles, EPs, and other small releases between albums. During the writing of “Utopia Banished,” Napalm Death made sure to write a bunch of additional songs, something that wasn’t a problem, as they were on fire in the writing department, especially with the addition of new drummer Danny Herrera. Bassist Shane Embury has said something that he forgets how to play a lot of these extra tracks since they wrote so many, but that doesn’t mean these songs are just just discarded album material.

First and foremost, if you don’t like “Utopia Banished,” then the songs on this EP won’t do it for you either. Out of the three tracks, one is a re-recording from that album, and the other two are exclusive tracks. They opted to record the three songs at a different studio with a different producer than “Utopia Banished,” so the production is a little different. It’s a little more airy, especially with the guitars, but it’s not a glaring difference. The title tracks differs from the album version slightly – it contains a bit of an intro with some samples, and the backup vocals are a little more prominent. The song itself has a really cool death metal groove with blasting section in the middle, and is a classic song of the band’s death metal era.

The two exclusive tracks presented here are also rather enjoyable. “A Means to an End” has a pretty groovy UK death metal riff that’s got a nice amount of speed, but generally also has a lot of speed with interesting riff patterns that get into some punk territory too. Meanwhile, “Insanity Excursion” is a lot more straight forward, as it alternates between blasts and fast thrash beats for its 2 minute duration. Again, the riffs are interesting enough, but I’m sure a song like this was delegated to the “non album material” bin due to its simplicity.

Do you need this EP in your collection? Unless you’re a diehard Napalm Death fan that has to collect all their releases, it’s not something you need to hunt down. Thankfully, the two exclusive tracks are available on the extended edition of “Utopia Banished,” along with another 4 bonus tracks, making it a 21 track album. If you really want to hunt down the version of the title track that’s on this EP, it appears on the “Noise for Music’s Sake” compilation. I would certainly pick up the stand alone EP if I found it for cheap, as the artwork has always been striking, but I’m in no rush to hunt for it.

75%

Incantation – Deliverance of Horrific Prophecies

Genre: Death Metal | Label: Relapse Records
Location: New Jersey| Listen: YouTube

incantation deliverance

Here’s a little piece of history from the endless depths of American death metal. New Jersey’s most evil death metal band, Incantation, had just started dealing with Relapse records. They had reissued their classic “Entrantment of Evil” EP, and slapped a photo of the band’s new (and third) line up on it. A little later in ’91, Relapse put out the first recording of this line up, which was the band’s heaviest yet. “Deliverance of Horrific Prophecies” is a mere two songs, with only one of them being new, but it was a glimpse of things to come, as this same line up would be featured on the “Onward to Golgotha” album.

Not only was this the first Incantation recording with Craig Pillard (vox/guitar) and Jim Roe (drums), it’s also the first recording they did at Trax East Studio in South River, NJ. This is important because both these members and this studio would be crucial to the sound of “Onward to Golgotha.” Likely because this was just intended to be a 7″, it’s a little more raw than the debut album, but it’s a better representation of Incantation’s sound than anything they had released previously. It’s definitely darker than the previous 7″, but more professional, with the kick drums being pretty well defined.

The A side features a new track, showcasing how dark Incantation’s songwriting was getting. “Deliverance of Horrific Prophecies” enters gloomy territory with some doomy guitar parts that twist around with Sabbathy trills at their tail ends. The dark atmosphere is emphasized by Pillard’s inhumanly low death metal vocals, giving former vocalist Will Rahmer (of Mortician) a run for his money. The version of this song here differs from the LP version, as there’s a whole extra outro section on this 7″ version. The B side is a re-recording of one of the oldest Incantation tracks, “Profanation.” A few versions of this already exist, and to no surprise, this is one of the most brutal ones yet. This one also appears on the debut record, but is pretty much in final form outside of recording quality at this point.

Despite being a mere two songs, this 7″ still gets the odd spin from me, as it’s without a doubt the heaviest pre-album material by Incantation. Casual fans of the band probably don’t need to hear this, but if you’re into hearing early works by some of the most important death metal bands, it’s worth hearing if not just for historical context. Otherwise, you’re better off just getting “Onward to Golgotha,” as it contains the penultimate versions of all the early Incantation material.

80%

Archagathus/Terror Firmer split 10″

Genre: Grindcore | Label: Grindfather
Location: Winnipeg, MB/Italy| Listen: Bandcamp

archagathus terror firmer

More Archagathus? Of course! It’s easy to binge on their releases, and seeing as they’ve done splits with so many different bands, a few of them are bound to end up on the Archives. This is a split 10″ from 2016 with an Italian grind band called Terror Firmer. Much like many of the other bands Archagathus has done splits with, this is the only Terror Firmer material I’m familiar with.

For Archagathus’ side, they unearthed 11 tracks that were recorded in 2010 that average about a minute in length. If you’re familiar with what Archagathus sounded like in the few years prior to their “Canadian Horse” LP, this fits into that era pretty well. It’s a little more on the raw side, but not as raw as the real early stuff. The songwriting is a little more punk oriented than the later death metal influenced stuff, going pretty hard on polka thrash beats, d-beats, but of course keeping plenty of blast beats too. This recording was done entirely by Dan, but then he and Joe did all the vocals in 2015. As usual, there’s a variety of different harsh vocal styles that change almost every line, with groans, growls, and pitch shifted gurgles. They go full on d-beat at points, adding in simple Discharge solos, like in the closer “Sad System.” The songs are pretty much standard affair for the band, although the rawness of them leaves a little to be desired, especially when compared to the production on material that was recorded later on.

The production is clearer on the Terror Firmer style, and their buzzy distorted bass tone is the first thing that stands out to me. It’s surprisingly well separated from the guitar tone, and the drums are pretty clean. There’s also quite a lot of punk influence on these Terror Firmer songs, and they employ a good amount of thrash influence too, giving these songs a decent amount of dynamic. Like Archagathus, they employ a lot of different vocal styles, but it seems to be done by just one person. Some of his higher vocals kind of suck, but he’s competent otherwise. The songs themselves, although full of energy, aren’t particularly memorable, and I haven’t bothered checking out any more Terror Firmer. Their side includes a cover of Repulsion’s “Black Breath” which is very well suited for their bass tone, and it’s the highlight of their side. Their side ends with a noisy songs that’s perhaps trying to emulate Napalm Death’s obsession with Swans, but it really misses the mark, and just seems like a waste of 4 minutes.

Overall, this isn’t a split you need to hear unless you’re a big fan of Archagathus. Their side features the usual affair for them in terms of songs, but is a little more raw due to it being an older recording. The Terror Firmer side is decent, but could’ve been better, especially without the noise track at the end. As I’ve said in other reviews for Archagathus, having more than just their side of a split 7″ on a single releases is nice, as there’s definitely more to enjoy on the 10″ format.

75%

Archagathus/Meat Spreader split LP

Genre: Grindcore/Goregrind | Label: Behind the Mountain
Location: Winnipeg, MB/Białystok, Poland| Listen: Bandcamp

archagathus meat spreader

Grindcore, mincecore, goregrind. If those three terms mean anything to you, then read ahead, as this split between Canada’s Archagathus and Poland’s Meat Spreader will likely interest you. Archagathus’ side is their only release for 2020, which is kind of bizarre when you consider this is also their 70th release. Meanwhile, Meat Spreader is a new goregrind band that features members of two of Poland’s most well known bands in the genre, Dead Infection and Squash Bowels. Both bands have teamed up here for a 12″, giving us a little more material than the usual 7″ duration.

Winnipeg’s Archagathus need to introduction, but if you haven’t heard them yet, their material on this split is an excellent representation of the band. This recording sees them as a power trio, with the usual suspects of Dan and Joe handling guitar and bass respectively, and of course splitting up the vocals. This recording also features Andy from Nak’ay on drums, who have also released a split with Archagathus (which I just recently reviewed). These are some of the blastiest songs in the band’s discography so far, as they pretty much eschew the typical mincecore polka beat. It does show up on tracks like “Disgusting Thing,” but only for a brief moment. There’s a lot of focus on brutality here, with plenty of death metal style riffing and punchy punk riffs. The dual vocal attack between Dan and Joe is absolutely disgusting, with lots of pitch shifters, but they still do a variety of voices with it. This is also some of their best sounding material, as Dan’s recording ability has been constantly improving over the years, and everything sounds well balanced.

This split is the only material I’ve heard from Meat Spreader, but as a fan of their previous bands, it’s pretty much what I expected to hear. The vocals sounds exactly like Dead Infection’s “A Chapter of Accidents,” with usage of pitch shifters, and the songwriting isn’t too far off either. However, these songs aren’t as much of a blasterpiece as either Dead Infection or the Archagathus side of this split. There are plenty of blasts, but there’s enough switching up between punk and thrash beats. I always liked Squash Bowels’ distorted bass tone, and no surprise, it’s also present in Meat Spreader. The band flexes some musicality into the song “Sound of Knife Entering Flesh” by slowing things down briefly and throwing some lead guitar into the mix. It’s a much needed breath of fresh air among all the brutality. Their side of the splits ends with a Regurgitate cover, and it fits in perfectly with the rest of the material here.

Archagathus never fails to make my year end lists, and despite only having one release this year, this split with Meat Spreader is definitely a stand out release for 2020. Both bands bust out some ridiculously vile grindcore, complete with low tunings and pitch shifters, and present their material with quality production values. Each band contributes about 9 minutes per side, so it still goes by fairly fast, but considering the fact that most of Archagathus’ releases are simply split 7″ records, anything in longer format is worth looking into.

85%

Encoffinate – Cimmerian Corpse Dungeon

Genre: Death/Doom Metal | Label: Caligari Records
Location: Vancouver, BC| Listen: Bandcamp

encoffinate demo

Encoffinate are another band from Vancouver that contains members of many other active bands in the metal underground. With members of Radioactive Vomit, Deathwinds, Ceremonial Bloodbath, AHNA, Grave Infestation, Temple of Abandonment, etc, it’s a safe bet that the Encoffinate demo will be worth listening to. Indeed, it is one potent slab of death/doom metal that sounds like it’s trying to crawl out of the depths of hell.

There are many approaches to death/doom, and Encoffinate sound like they’ve taken the Celtic Frost path that classics like Winter took and pushed to the limits of slow metal. There are some obvious Celtic Frost inspired riffs, and there’s an abundance of Tom G Warrior-isms in the vocals, as put forth by drummer/vocalist KS. Just listen to the opening of “Autointerment,” which has a big “HEYYYYYYYYYY” among other familiar sounding death grunts. This is comparable to Divine Eve/Crimson Relic at times, sans punk beats, but they do incorporate the “goat beat” instead to give some of those parts a quicker pulse.

Despite some of the riffs having a very death metal feel, complete with tremolo picked patterns across phrases, the drums pace these parts in ways to keep the tempo feeling slow. Furthermore, we can see more use of musicality with the haunting melodies in the opening of track “Black Skies of Terror” that features some really gloomy Autopsy inspired parts. Again, this song comes into a riff that could very well be featured on a blasting death metal record, but the drums hold back to create mood and feel. This song is probably the most Celtic Frost sounding on the recording, as some of these riffs wouldn’t feel out of place on “Morbid Tales.” Can we also appreciate how disgusting KS’ vocals are? They’ve always been the master of various vocal styles in various bands, and they absolutely nail the vocal performance here. Between bestial growls and Tom G Warrior impressions, they are all over the place vocally on this recording.

“Cimmerian Corpse Dungeon,” being a demo, does not have the most polished production, but it’s very listenable, and by no means raw. The guitar and bass tones have enough separation between the two. Even the drums are awesome, with the double kick parts cutting through fairly well without any excess amount of click. That being said, the toms leave a little to be desired, but again, this is a demo, and I’m sure they’ll have more impact if they ever do a proper full length.

This demo stands out among all the members’ other projects as unique, as it’s not fast blasting death metal, bestial war metal, or completely desolate funeral doom. They’ve come together to create something that just punches you right in the gut with the most deliberate of pacing. If you love death/doom but want something that’s more brutal as opposed to ethereal, Encoffinate does a great job of that on this 23 minute, 4 song demo. These tracks are being released as a split 12″, which hopefully means a full length is in the works.

80%

Excarnated Entity – Stillborn in Ash

Genre: Death/Doom Metal | Label: Self Released
Location: Seattle, WA| Listen: Bandcamp

excarnated entity stillborn in ash

I seem to be on a roll with reviewing stuff from the Seattle area, so I might as well talk about one of my favourite demos from last year. Excarnated Entity play death/doom in the vein of early Paradise Lost (sans goth influences), and they consist of members that have been in a variety of metal bands in the area. Most notably (and relatable, sound wise), it features the bassist of Anhedonist, who is now doing vocals as well. While this does have some ethereal death/doom melodies like Anhedonist, “Stillborn in Ash” forges its own identity with powerful execution.

Right away, this demo sounds like something that would’ve come out on Peaceville Records in the early 90’s, especially the aforementioned Paradise Lost, early My Dying Bride, or even early Vital Remains. This applies to both the production and elements of the songwriting. It’s got this rawness to it that adds to its gloomy, imposing atmosphere that I always associated with said bands. Both the lead and rhythm guitar tone, the vocals, and drum sound all seem like they were aimed at recreating that unique atmosphere.

There’s plenty of great guitar work to sink your teeth into here. The riffs vary from slow, plodding doom sections, to full out evil tremolo riffs, giving the songs plenty of ground to cover, and effective contrast between tempos. There’s some pinch harmonic riffs that sound like they came right out of My Dying Bride’s “As the Flower Withers.” Furthermore, the lead guitar work is fantastic, throwing in plenty of ominous melody throughout the songs, and even getting into full out ripping solos. Again, these sounds a lot like the debut Paradise Lost at times. “Perverse Zealotry,” the longest track on the album, also utilizes some notable effects on some lead parts to further add character to it.

Excarnated Entity masterfully navigate through the ebb and flow of each song. Both the title track and the closing track, “Split Visage,” feature some of the fastest parts on the recording, utilizing blast beats and full out death metal riffage, only to break down into some more crushing mid paced riffs and eerie melodies. Nothing feels forced or out of place, likewise no part seems to overstay its welcome, which is easy to do when it comes to slow tempos.

As of writing this, “Stillborn in Ash” just recently received a proper CD/LP release on Nuclear Winter Records, and features new artwork and remixed version of the four songs. I can’t comment on this new mix, but I am certainly curious to hear it (and I need to get my filthy paws on a hard copy, so I’m sure I will soon enough). Fans of early 90’s death/doom should get familiar with Exarnated Entity, as this demo will not disappoint. Here’s hoping a full length is in the works, as this demo has certainly set a high standard for this new band.

85%

Ceremonial Bloodbath – The Tides of Blood

Genre: Black/Death Metal | Label: Sentient Ruin
Location: Vancouver, BC| Listen: Bandcamp

ceremonial bloodbath the tides of blood

Hailing from Vancouver, BC, Ceremonial Bloodbath are a bestial black/death metal band that formed in 2015. Sentient Ruin has released the band’s debut album this year, and it is without a doubt one of the darkest and downright evil sounding recordings I’ve heard throughout 2020. The band’s previous demo was a mere foreshadowing of what was to come on their full length, as it sounds much more massive and impactful. Considering the personnel in the band, it is no surprise that this group of Canadian scumbags made something so malevolent.

“The Tides of Blood” is a truly bestial take on black/death metal, taking the most extreme elements of both genres and smashing them together. There’s an obvious influence from bands like Blasphemy, Beherit, and Sarcofago with the signature “goat beat” backing simple yet barbaric riffs. “Book of Black Blessings” has a particular Blasphemy sounding riff that is easy to get stuck in your head. Meanwhile, “Hordes of Demons Feeding” incorporates an Autopsy death/doom influence as shown in the intro, adding to the overall sinister vibe of the album. They contrast these more primitive sections with more intricate death metal riffs in the vein of early Deicide, as heard in “Hammer Throne.”

As with many of the other bands featuring members of Ceremonial Bloodbath, they opted to record at Rain City Studios with Jesse Gander. He did an excellent job at creating something that sounds powerful and natural, retaining the chaotic kind of darkness required for this kind of music. The songs here have such a percussive pulse to them, and the way the drums cut through the mix really does it for me. The amount of attack and resonance is satisfying, and there’s still plenty of room for the wall of guitar and bass frequencies which are equally as massive. I can’t praise the production on this record enough.

Out of the ten tracks on this record, three are actually interludes (and in the context of this record’s flow, they work great). Of the seven actual songs, five of them appeared on the band’s demo, so there’s only really two new songs here – the ever so caustic opening track, “Primitive,” and the epic complex slab of death metal “Seven Wells.” The latter features great use of two guitars, with one layering in some finger twisting patterns over top of bestial riffing. This track explores some much needed musicality in its middle section that gives this album that extra bit of breathing room, something catchy to latch onto, before diving into pure savagery once again.

Despite the fact that five of these tracks were on the demo, the improved production and overall tighter performances really enforce that separation between this, proper album, and the demo. “The Tides of Blood” is a little on the long side for bestial black/death metal, as it clocks in at just under 47 minutes, but it breaks itself up well enough with the few interludes and seasoned songwriting. Considering members play in a variety of extreme metal and punk bands such as Massgrave, AHNA (who also put out a crushing LP this year), Grave Infestation, Deathwinds, and Radioactive Vomit, it’s no surprise that they were able to put out something this dark and potent for black/death metal.

83%

Adversarial / Paroxsihzem – Warpit of Coiling Atrocities

Genre: Black/Death Metal | Label: Vault of Dried Bones
Location: Toronto, ON| Listen: Bandcamp

warpit of coiling atrocities

From the bowels of Toronto comes “Warpit of Coiling Atrocities,” a split between two of the darkest black/death metal bands the mecca of Canada has to offer. For Adversarial, this was the second of two splits between albums, and it feels like it’s been lost between the incredible “Initiated in Impiety as Mysteries” split and their sophomore full length. In Paroxsihzem’s case, they started to show huge strides of improvement compared to their self titled full length. Both bands showcase some great material here that seems to have gone under appreciated.

Adversarial’s side opens up the split, and they start their contribution with an intro track, which contains some lofi sounding guitar and drums, as if they were off in the distance, with wolf howls and dark ambience at the end. It’s honestly my least favourite part of the split due to its length, as it would be far more effective if much shorter. Thankfully, the first actual song, “Warwolf” does not disappoint. Adversarial, as they have in the past, utilize dissonant chords, and either trem them in a progression, or find some meaningful patterns from the notes within. It creates a pretty chaotic and unsettling atmosphere, further punctuated with the relentless blastbeats and stellar lead guitar work. “Cursed Blades Cast Upon the Slavescum of Christ” (an amazing title, I may add) is where Adversarial really shines though, as throw in more Incantation style riffs against double kick beats, and develop a much more involved song. They also included a cover of Morbid Angel’s “Vengeance is Mine,” and like their previous cover song recordings, they crush it.

Previous to their material on this split, Paroxsihzem had a lone full length (with a couple demos) under their belt. The material here continues the direction set out on the album, creating some very dark black/death metal. Their three songs here contain more black metal influence than the Adversarial size, but there’s plenty of finger twisting riffs among the more hypnotic paced parts that certainly make it a worthwhile side to listen to. There’s still usage of samples over black metal style chord progressions like on the debut, but where they improve is in their focus on more involved death metal tremolo riffs. It’s still really murky, especially when they throw the reverb on the snare in “Tormented Attrition,” but murky works for Paroxsihzem. I don’t think they would achieve this kind of atmosphere otherwise, and it’s like a heavy, dense fog. There’s some great spiraling guitar work in the closing track “Ypsilanti’s Christs” that is absolutely morbid, and like the other side of the split, has a huge Incantation influence to it.

Everyone’s going to compare this to the Adversarial/Antediluvian split, and truth be told, Adversarial’s material on this split isn’t quite as good, but it’s almost unfair to compare the two. On the other hand, I feel like Paroxsihzem is more complementary in terms of sound to Adversarial, and it gives this split a little more cohesiveness. Either way, you can’t go wrong with either split if you love cavernous, dissonant, and hyper-blasting death metal. Adversarial’s discography has been flawless thus far, while Paroxsihzem put out an mLP after this which stands as their best material yet. Both of these Toronto acts have been silent for a while, and more material by either will be met with much hype.

80%

Order From Chaos – Frozen in Steel

Genre: Black/Death Metal | Label: Nuclear War Now! Productions
Location: Kansas City, MO| Listen: Bandcamp

order from chaos frozen in steel

Box sets are a curious release – they’re usually aimed at the diehard fans of a band, but a lot of the time, said fans already own a good chunk of the band’s discography. Not only that, they’re expensive, so they really need to offer something unique, be of high quality, and/or contain hard to find material that would make it worth the purchase. When it comes to Order From Chaos, the now defunct cult black/death metal band from Kansas City, MO, their “Frozen In Steel” box set has to be one of the most gorgeous and complete releases I’ve ever seen.

Back in 2008, Nuclear War Now reissued both the band’s full length albums on vinyl, including a beautiful diehard edition of each. I was already bit by the OFC bug at this time, so I was sure to purchase both, and I’ve even gone as far as reviewing both previously on MA with very high rankings. I won’t be going into as much detail about each release included in the “Frozen In Steel” box set, so feel free to refer to those reviews for further details. In addition to both of those albums, the box set includes every demo, EP, and mLP the band released, plus a slew of live and rehearsal material throughout the years. If you have the diehard edition of the box set, there’s extra live/rehearsal material, including a live set from their reunion in 2010. It’s a lot to take in across 9 LPs – 12 if you have the diehard edition – but it’s truly a complete package.

The demo material ranges from raw to fairly listenable, and offers an early look at the band’s thrash origins, which are on full display in their formative years. One of the unique things about Order From Chaos was that they were always refining their songs, which means there are several versions available. Early demo tracks like “Crimes Against the State” later became “Labyrinthine Whispers” on the Dawn Bringer mLP, for example. They also did a lot of live in the studio recordings, offering rougher previews of what was to come on their full lengths. As such, listening to this box set in one sitting could get a little repetitious, never mind the fact it’ll cost you an entire day of listening.

As I mentioned, I already owned the two full lengths the band put out, and I also have a CD version the “Dawnbringer” mLP. The EPs, such as “Plateau of Invincibility” and “And I Saw Eternity” have long eluded me, so I’m very happy to finally have these tracks on a hard copy. Compared to the demos, these EPs (much like the full lengths) are much more black/death metal oriented, with furious riffs, unrelenting drums, and some of the most venomous vocal performances of all time. The cover versions of Venom and Sodom songs are definitely more bad ass than the original recordings. When you listen to all this material, you can really hear the maturation of the songs, the performances, and the attention to detail in the production. Everything just keeps improving, and they pretty much hit death metal perfection on the final album, “An Ending In Fire.”

The presentation of this box set is phenomenal. Each LP is housed in a proper gatefold jacket, with original artwork and liner notes inside. NWN made sure to include some bonus items such as a flag, patch, poster, and stickers. However, the most stunning part of all the extras has to be the hardcover book that was included. All members of the band collaborated to accurately cover the history of Order From Chaos, with discussion of all the recording sessions. There’s plenty of unseen photos, gig posters, and pieces of interviews within it, giving the fans something unique to this box set. If you’re familiar with the Mystifier box set that NWN put out, it’s a huge improvement, as that one didn’t contain proper LP jackets and its included booklet was flimsy in comparison.

Some of the live and rehearsal material here gets a little monotonous, and ranges in quality. Although that material only takes up 3/9 of the LPs on the regular edition, it’s takes up half of the box set with the diehard edition. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s just something to be aware of when considering if this box set is worth it for you or not. I will fully admit I don’t listen to all of the material offered in equal amounts, but sometimes it’s just cool to hear some classic OFC songs performed in cites like Omaha, NE or Manassas, VA. That being said, compared to the diehard version of the Mystifier box set, all the extra material here is far better than the terrible live LP that was included with that one.

Nuclear War Now knocked it out of the park with this box set – I’ve never seen such a gorgeous release that’s been put together with such detail before in my life (yes, there’s the Emperor box set, but I’ve never actually seen real photos of it, just rendered previews). Despite owning their main releases, having all the EPs, demos, and extra live/rehearsal stuff together in the set alongside the incredible hardcover book makes this release worth it for me, and it’s easily the most impressive release in my collection. I ended up receiving the CD version from the band themselves, and it contains all the material on the regular vinyl edition across 5 CDs, and is definitely a more affordable option for curious ears who don’t want to break the bank.

100%

Bone Sickness – Theater of Morbidity

Genre: Grindcore | Label: Self Released
Location: Olympia/Tacoma, WA| Listen: Bandcamp

bone sickness theater of morbidity

Back in 2013, I stumbled upon the band Bone Sickness from Olympia/Tacoma, Washington. At the time, they were just releasing a 12″ EP, and had a preceding demo and 7″. I really liked the combination of death metal riffs mixed with punk beats and to the point structures. As such, I eagerly awaited a full length from the band, but they seemed kind of disappear for a bit, even dropping off festival appearances that I was hoping to see them at. After a five year gap, they finally dropped “Theater of Morbidity,” their debut full length. Unfortunately, I am not as thrilled about it as I am their previous material. At a mere 20 minutes, it manages to be bloated with useless filler, and overall just isn’t a very satisfying listen.

For whatever reason, Bone Sickness decided to tack on a sample to every track on this album, and it could very well do without most of them. Not only that, the samples are overly long, sometimes taking up more than half the duration of the track. I know there are lots of classic metal and grind records that have their share of samples, but to put this much on a recording that only comes out to be 20 minutes just feels like a cheap attempt at bulking up a short run time. Just as the record starts to get heavy, the next song starts with another sample, ruining the flow. It’s a frustrating experience and it doesn’t get any better.

The music on “Theater of Morbidity” isn’t too shabby. This is much more grindcore oriented than their previous punky death metal releases, with Napalm Death, Repulsion, and Impetigo coming to mind pretty quick. There was some Autopsy influence on their previous material as well, but it’s not as prominent here, although “Rotten Grin” has a punky Autopsy vibe to it. Truth be told, the songs themselves are pretty one dimensional, but I don’t mind a grindcore record that punches me in the gut the same way for 20 straight minutes. The songs are fairly simple, featuring a slew of blast beats and powerful punk beats that back a variety of riffs. There are some standard death metal tremolo riffs, basic 3-4 chord punk riffs, and some parts that really thrash. The drum and vocal performance add a lot of character to these tracks, which often remind me of Chris Reifert (so that Autopsy influence isn’t totally gone!). Again, I could listen to this record if it was 20 straight minutes of music like this, as they tap into plenty of what I do like to hear in grindcore.

Production wise, it doesn’t sound as professional or polished as “Alone in the Grave,” but it’s not near as raw as their demo. By all means, it’s entirely appropriate – the bass has Repulsion like rumble but much fuller, the guitars have a nice layer of filthy distortion but offer enough clarity for the riffs to be digestible, and the snare cuts through the mix really well.

It’s a shame this record is so bloated with movie samples. Even if they cut out 75% of the samples here, it’d be a lot more listenable, but it just feels like half this record isn’t even music. Bone Sickness broke up when this album dropped, but if they ever put out more material, I can only hope they correct this misstep. “Theater of Morbidity” is a difficult listen because it obviously has potential, but just never properly takes off due to the constant interruption of samples at the beginning of every song.

65%