As you might expect for a Japanese tech-death band, Defiled make music that’s a bit strange. Their last two records, Divination, and In Crisis were fast and brutal but had an idiosyncratic sound that can only come from a band in relative isolation – think of how strange Ulcerate sounded in 2009 and multiply by wider cultural barriers and you get something that doesn’t quite fit in to preconceptions. But for all of their weirdness, and in the latter case, mixing issues these albums had some decent cuts and genuinely demanding instrumental performances. Towards Inevitable Ruin… not so much.
Given that the only original member left in the band is guitarist Yususke Sumita and the rest of 2016’s Defiled is full of new members, a shift in sound is hardly surprising. But the technicality and strangeness that made the band’s last two releases interesting have taken a bigger hit than anyone would anticipate. The straightforward death metal cuts here like “One World” and “Debunked” prove pretty listenable and live off riffing that’s not dissimilar to Abnormality, but with a much less cluttered sound. The dry guitars and warm sound of the record make for an off-putting listen at first, but if your’e familiar with Scenes from Hell or any other recent Sigh release, you’ll recognize the sound.
While by no means an incompetent release, there’s not much to sink your teeth into in Towards Inevitable Ruin. Made up almost entirely of sub-three-minute cuts, it has a grindy sort of charm, but it lacks both the ferocity of good grind and the meatiness of convincing death metal. Defiled have always been fairly technical in their writing and do a lot of time signature switching, but their riffs here lack groove and continuity, as they tend to be composed of one-bar phrases. Moreover, when they do experiment, it’s annoying rather than interesting. Opener “Subversion” takes a stab at an out-of step chugging riff, but when paired with the single-car garage production of the album and its monumentally stupid ending, it comes off as genuinely incompetent and of sub-demo quality.
Progressing through the album, guitar parts become markedly less amateurish, but a handful of annoyingly short phrases and bone-headed drum patterns pop up in almost every song. Imagine a death metal album in which every song uses the turnaround from “Back in Black” and you get the picture. Compounding the issue of poor writing, the production of Ruin is beyond gritty and tends towards actual incompetence. Keisuke Hamada’s drums sound fine until he hits the toms, which are poorly miced and either sound like they’re getting maxed out on every punch or are barely audible. The guitars are papery except when the pedal-board is in play and weird tones come out of nowhere – often for no apparent reason. There obviously wasn’t enough room in the garage for Hiroki Sato, as his bass is nowhere to be found on the album – a big step down from Divination‘s technical and upfront bass, although less irritating than how pushed the low-end was in In Crisis.
In the midst of massive member turnover, Defiled have taken a huge hit and Towards Inevitable Ruin is aptly titled. The riffs aren’t good enough, the writing is sloppy, and the production slipped past low-fi into the realm of the truly bad. It seems that the “Samurai of brutal death metal” seem to be wearing thin, their blades not as sharp as they once were; after the marked failure of this record and after such a long career, I would be disappointed but not too surprised to see Defiled calling it quits in an honorable death.