For a good while it seemed like San Diego’s Pathology had an almost clockwork precision to their release schedule, consistently unleashing a new platter of punishing death metal on the unworthy masses each and every year since 2008. And with each successive release, the band got better and better; the trifecta of THE 2012’s TIME OF GREAT PURIFICATION (technical, almost Dying Fetus territory), 2013’s LORDS OF REPHAIM (oppressive, low tuned death sludge) and 2014’s THRONE OF REIGN (melodic slam shred?) were each impressive releases that demonstrated Pathology’s versatility in the brutal death spectrum. That track record of quality and consistency makes you wonder what the band did with their time in the 3 years between THRONE OF REIGN and their latest and self-titled album, PATHOLOGY.
Coming off an album like THRONE OF REIGN, PATHOLOGY is a bit of a disappointment. It’s like the band was attempting to make a primitive, ultra-brutal statement, but sacrificed songwriting and anything else interesting in the process to get there. The tunes are full of one-dimensional, slammed out Terrorizer riffs that were stale 20 years ago, the drums sound like a someone’s jamming on the space bar of a Smith Corona typewriter one click at a time, and vocalist Matti Way takes his sub-guttural emanations WAY over the top, sounding more like a night of well-rounded taco farts reverberating around the porcelain throne than a sick and scary death metal vocalist. There’s nary a trace of the compositional complexity that graced much of Pathology’s recent output. Tracks like “Litany”, “Dissevered” and “Putrescent” have some character and offer hope, but most of PATHOLOGY feels painfully paint-by-numbers. Let’s put it this way – if Six Feet Under is the poor man’s Cannibal Corpse, PATHOLOGY is the poor man’s Pathology.
And the irony of Pathology’s rekindled relationship with Comatose Music shouldn’t be lost either; the band has likely inspired most of the label’s current roster, yet this new album sounds like something you’d expect from one of their youngest signings – not an elder statesman of the brutal death metal genre. The truth may hurt, but at least it’s always honest.
If there’s any good that comes out of this, it’s 1) Pathology is officially back – and that means gigging, promotion, and hopefully another album in less than 3 years, and 2) we learn that the evil alien scientist that’s adorned so many of their album covers is having a very bad day. And at the end of that very bad day, fans will buy this because it’s a Pathology record and Comatose has tremendous reach, both of which are ultimately good for the scene. PATHOLOGY is a bittersweet return for one of brutal death metal’s best and brightest; hopefully we get the album we deserve soon enough.
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