Reviewing metal is a bit like supporting your favorite sporting team, perhaps minus the level of frustration and crippling emotional baggage such loyal support can entail. You get your purple patch winning streak of good to great albums, ups and downs, and the inevitable string of losses, controversies and extreme fluctuations in-between. And really there’s never a dull moment. I’ve been on a pretty good run lately, with no real stinkers in a while, so it’s with equal parts excitement and trepidation that I delve into the debut full-length from Melbourne, Australia’s Contaminated, hoping to keep the wins ticking over. Glance at the cover art for this grotesque slab of stripped-back brutality and immediately you get an insight into the album’s grimy and barbaric death metal aesthetic, unleashed in all its fury in what is likely to be one of the most gruesome releases of 2017. Crafted by the hands of Aussie underground scene veterans, Contaminated live up to their chosen moniker with uncomfortable ease and while the album has some issues and certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted, it’s a hell of a punishing ride.
Contaminated takes brutal old school death metal back to its deepest, darkest underground roots, lumbering forth on the back of a pungent atmosphere of putrid riffs, blasting drums and hideously brutal low growls. It’s dense, uncompromising stuff, torching the notion of subtlety and modern embellishments in favor of basement dwelling, bog monster extremity. Basically, Contaminated create some of the ugliest death metal going around and Final Man is the band’s grisly debut statement of trend-killing intent. Song titles like “Squalid Survival,” “No Time to Rot” and “Mired in Shit” do excellent justice to the sonic pummeling and flesh tearing grinder Contaminated put you through, hacking and bludgeoning with complete disregard. The guttural, blast fueled tirades border on the incomprehensible and chaotic, held together by the lively performances.
Contaminated sound like they were birthed in the deepest, dankest crevices of the brutal death underground, chowing down on early Incantation and diSEMBOWELMENT for inspiration, and sharing an unhealthy appetite for the most cvlt, old school underground European and American death metal. And when coupling bowel rumbling force and tearaway carnage with carefully deployed, rib-cage crushing grooves and death-doom slogfests, Contaminated impress. They occasionally shoehorn in solid variations to offset the indistinguishable and muddied elements that lends the album a one-dimensional feel, but it’s not enough to convincingly overcome the album’s flaws. This casts doubt over longer term enjoyment and replay value, with the blurry song-writing compounded by the monotonous nature of the sick vocal atrocities. But at maximum potency Final Man is a fitting homage to nights spent enclosed in dingy, run-down music venues and empty dive bars to witness the most brutal underground band nobody has heard of strut their stuff for the sheer passion and unhinged love for their underappreciated brand of brutality.
As terrifyingly intense and savage as Contaminated sound at full speed, they’re at their most lethal and memorable when slowing the tempos to the fetid, sludgy crawl of ominous instrumental “Starved,” the similarly crushing moments on “Their Future,” and the blast-infused, funereal death-doom demolition of “Mired in Shit.” These sporadic moments balance the brutal death with doom and sludge, and the devastating execution in which Contaminated ply their trade is certainly impactful, but the songwriting doesn’t quite hold together across the album. Production-wise, everything about Final Man sounds huge, dense and almost overwhelming in its heaviness, sounding unclean and stripped-back, bruising and unforgiving, despite the unfortunate compression.
Despite its flaws I’ve enjoyed aspects of Final Man, savoring the suffocating weight and uncompromising filth-riddled assault that lays waste to everything in its path. Unfortunately, amidst the plethora of high-quality death metal albums so far released in 2017, I can imagine Contaminated getting lost in the shuffle and struggling for regular play. Nevertheless, for hardcore underground fiends, Final Man has enough redeeming qualities to warrant a thorough investigation. Going back to my introductory sporting analogy, Contaminated’s Final Man represents that feeling you get when your team fires off some brutal cheap shots, plays like dogshit the whole game, but somehow jags a win in a contentious, ill-gotten manner, leaving you feeling kind of dirty and frustrated, yet shamefully satisfied.
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Blood Harvest Records
Websites: pestilentialdecay.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/pestilentialdecay
Release Dates: EU: 2017.06.09 | NA: 07.07.2017