If you’re a trve olde fan of AMG, you probably remember when the scores used to be at the top of the review alongside an amusing blurb. While I prefer the current format, it’s moments like these where I miss the ways of olde because our editors would’ve had a field day with Boston metal band Dysentery’s latest record Fragments. A few quips off the top of my head: Green Eggs and Slam, Peanut Butter and Slam, Abraslam Lincoln, There’s Something About Mary Starring Slameron Diaz, and my personal favourite: Slamuel Adams Boston Lager [Slamfisted attempts all. – Steel Druhm]. By now, some may be posed like Auguste Rodin’s “The Thinker” and wondering what genre Dysentery is. Well fear not, I’m here to help.
Dysentery play slam. For those unaware of what this entails, it’s what happens when someone heard the part at 2:53 of Suffocation’s “Liege of Inveracity” and decided to make an entire subgenre revolving around it. To my ears, Dysentery borrows heavily from Pathology’s Legacy of the Ancients, pre-Conceived in Sewage Devourment, and Abominable Putridity’s In the End of Human Existence. This translates to aiming for maximum brutality by way of slow chromatic chugging, guttural and gurgling vocals, simplistic faster parts to make the upcoming slam seem more brutal, and the age-old technique (shown here in “Veiled Narcissism”) of further slowing down your slamming chug and letting out a big ol’ extended “E” sound over top like some crazed vowel fanatic.
So what’s good about Fragments? “Onset” is a decent if simple instrumental with some bonehead death metal riffing that got my head nodding, transitioning into the record’s best slam to close it off. Exempting the lack of vocals, it’s what I like about the genre condensed into two minutes. There are also a lot of pinch harmonics, as Dysentery uses them exactly 174 times throughout Fragments (yes, I counted). On a record 32:18 in length, that works out to roughly one pinch harmonic every eleven seconds. There are no outside elements or melodious balderdash to distract from the veritable buffet of chugs, gurgles, sped-up chugs, and pinch harmonics present here. If you want slam, you got it; this stuff doesn’t let up.
Vastly outweighing the decent aspects are myriad major flaws. Dysentery lacks the songwriting chops of a band like Internal Bleeding, who have proven themselves capable of making quality death metal interspersed with good slams, and Fragments really suffers for it. “Led to Terminal Ignorance” sees the band brazenly show their entire hand, and unless you’re absolutely enthralled by it, you’re in for a bumpy ride. Nothing stands out and it takes very little time for things to bleed together with Dysentery’s flagrant overutilization of nearly identical variations of basic chromatic chug patterns. Even when things speed up it’s the most bog-standard death metal you can imagine, so even the constant tempo shifts quickly become exercises in tedium because you know they’re coming and you know you’re going to forget the riff you just heard right before you forget the one you’re currently hearing. The monotony is so prevalent that the very structure of the album is irrelevant, and shuffling the tracks in any odd order makes zero net difference to the experience so long as the intro and outro (which are nearly identical) are in place; I know because I tried this myself.
The production exacerbates said monotony, as it’s brickwalled at DR4. While the snare retains a bit of that trash can charm and the kick drum sound present enough, zero dynamics in both songwriting and mastering make Fragments come across as an unremarkable mass of obnoxiously downtuned droning with indecipherable vocals, or what people who don’t “get” death metal probably think all death metal sounds like. The bass pops out when everything else drops off, but other than that it’s invisible behind the wall of burly overprocessed guitar. Vocals are rendered into a rhythmic instrument instead of a tonal one, and with the lack of interesting phrasing, their place high in the mix seems rather unwarranted for the content on display, although discounting the uninspired phrasing their execution isn’t objectionable by slam standards.
It may seem like I went through Fragments and didn’t find many examples on a song-by-song basis of exactly why I don’t like what Dysentery is doing here, but that’s not the case. With songwriting on a whole being of the “spaghetti-test” style (Kronos, 2015), competent but bland performances wearing out their welcome quickly, and a dearth of truly worthwhile material, Fragments is a woefully bland listening experience. I don’t abhor slam and this isn’t embarrassing like Cephalotripsy, but making something that sounds consistently brutal isn’t tantamount to making something that’s worthwhile or anything more than uninspired chug-filled drivel.