After spinning and reviewing such bands as Katatonia, Diablo Swing Orchestra, Imperial Vengeance and Madder Mortem in recent weeks, it’s always nice to come back to some straightforward, no-frills death metal, kind of like a reminder of where your roots and passions lie. There’s always a place in everyone’s heart for some uncomplicated metal, whether it be cheesy raise-your-fists power metal, or old school straight-up thrash, or raw, uncompromising black metal untainted by keyboards and horror movie samples, or pounding death metal with no prefix like ‘tech’ or ‘melodic’ or ‘symphonic’. Well, I’m positively salivating about Dying Fetus’ sixth studio album DESCEND INTO DEPRAVITY.
The Marylanders are led by the indefatigable John Gallagher on vocals and guitar. The man has taken Dying Fetus through numerous line-up changes over the years, and when you consider that PURIFICATION THROUGH VIOLENCE (their first bona fide studio release although they’d been knocking about for about five years already) hit the collective death metal consciousness in the midst of Bill Clinton’s re-election for a second term in 1996, well, that’s frigging long time to be doing metal, wouldn’t you say? 1998’s KILLING ON ADRENALINE was a warning shot across the bows, but 2000’s DESTROY THE OPPOSITION featured what many hold to be the definitive Dying Fetus line-up of Gallagher, Netherton, Voyles and Talley and is considered the crowning moment of Dying Fetus and death-grind in general…Talley and Netherton would soon after leave to form Misery Index. 2003’s STOP AT NOTHING saw my personal favourite line-up of Gallagher, Kimball, Matthews, Beasley and Sayenga, but the band hit a tiny snag with WAR OF ATTRITION in 2007, although it was nowhere near as bad as the critics were making it out to be. And through the years, Gallagher and co have been pummelling audiences around the world into submission – after all, the strength of Dying Fetus, I feel, has always been its terrifyingly compelling live performances.
DESCEND INTO DEPRAVITY discards a lot of the ‘wigger’ (lollzzz, how descriptive) elements of WAR OF ATTRITION, but I feel it’s an uninspired effort by the boys from Maryland. Sure, it’s heavy, it’s fast, it’s head-pounding and spine-cracking etc, but it’s nothing new. In its defence, it probably doesn’t pretend to be a re-spoker of the wheel. It’s DESTROY THE OPPOSITION without the freshness. I mean, we’re talking about the days when breakdowns weren’t a dirty word just quite yet. Job For A Cowboy weren’t out of their nappies yet. And the Fetus were doing their thang back then, destroying listeners and audiences. Just like they’re doing their thang right this second. I should be happy with DESCEND INTO DEPRAVITY.
Hand on heart, I love Dying Fetus. Their live shows are a blur of flying hair, sweat and intense neck pain in my fading memory. But in the cold quiet solitude of my air-conditioned room, this doesn’t get the blood flowing the way it did when I first heard them (either STOP AT NOTHING or WAR OF ATTRITION). It’s unfair to load your memories, burdens and expectations on to a new work of art, but it’s what I’ve done. Tough luck. Injecting some semblance of professionalism into this frigging review, DESCEND INTO DEPRAVITY is a well-worked, well-played piece of death metal laced with grind, made by guys who are rightfully legends in the death metal pantheon. It’s an album for the die-hards and collectors, it’s a GREAT album for a beginner (although not the best) into the genre. But for the interested (i.e. one step below ‘die-hard’ but one level above ‘casual’) listener, it offers nothing you haven’t heard already.
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