Given how Ektomorf sounds (hint: like Soulfly), you’re probably surprised to see my name up there in the author’s hot seat instead of Dr. Fisting’s due to existing AMG precedents. Cards on the table: I brought this upon myself. Why? Because I’ve heard a few of their records before, and they have a loud yet ultimately disposable charm, and I figured Aggressor would continue in this vein because Ektomorf isn’t known for change. I went in with measured expectations, and knew partway through my first spin that Aggressor wasn’t Record o’ the Year material. That doesn’t mean it can’t be entertaining, but it does mean it can’t be great.
Ektomorf have found vitality in the power of groovy, hooky, and simplistic riffs throughout their long existence, and Aggressor brings nothing new to the table. For those new to the party, imagine Roots and the first three Soulfly records had a lobotomy which made them incapable of doing anything but being angry and/or distraught over thick riffs, but these riffs are based on hardcore instead of nu-metal. Guitarist/vocalist Zoltan Farkas sounds almost identical to Max Cavalera with a better handle on pronouncing words in English but the same handle on writing in proper English, so prepare for some unintentional humor.
It’s also quite apparent Ektomorf studied their biggest influences too closely. Opener “I” launches into what’s basically a sequel to Soulfly‘s “Eye For An Eye” and is energetic enough to not be tepid or too redundant and instead be simple fun. The pillaging continues with “Seek n’ Strike” clearly being the basis of “Move On” (seriously, listen to the vocal phrasing), and “Damned Nation” sounding like a Primitive outtake that should have made the cut and replaced “Jumpdafuckup” to save Cavalera from a joke he’ll never live down. Lyrically it’s still Cavalera-tier wordplay (zero points for guessing what other word can be derived from the title), but at least Corey Taylor doesn’t whine for the whole verse and the J-word isn’t uttered. Ektomorf didn’t learn from well-documented history what a shitty idea rapping over this stuff is, and “You Lost” is the unfortunate result of that oversight. On the topic of early 2000s entry-level metal cliches, the mandatory clean-yet-gruff chorus of “Emotionless World” fares better by being catchy, but it’s beaten into near irrelevance by the repetition hammer before its conclusion.
The appeal of bands like Ektomorf and Soulfly lies in them being base-level entertainment made to be played loudly and provide instant gratification via kinetic heaviness, and these guys succeed in that regard. It’s the epitome of straightforward, essentially being physicality put to music, but for many of us there’s occasionally the time where the simple is preferable to the cerebral. To wit, it’s far more rewarding to play Dark Souls than it is to go on a cheat-fueled tank massacre in Grand Theft Auto V, but the mindless violence can act as a small form of catharsis or just provide simple, immediate, and mindless fun. Aggressor is an entire record full of audible tank rampages, and in turn has one true highlight. “Evil by Nature” features the vocal prowess of Corpsegrinder, and Ektomorf tried to make their guest feel right at home by giving him a simpler version of “Evisceration Plague” to layer his monstrous vocals over before going into a legitimately surprising and effective thrash break with satisfying phrase trade-offs between Corpsegrinder and Farkas. The only problem is that Corpsegrinder outperforms Farkas to such a degree that the latter’s vocals sound nearly impotent in comparison.
Aggressor sounds like Ektomorf, which is what everyone expected of it anyway. Tue Madsen and the band’s befuddling decision to make the bass almost silent when it could add real weight to the riffs is just as confusing here as it was on Black Flag and their other post-2003 releases, but at least the guitars are chunky and the drums adopt Madsen’s typically good sound to make up for it. Oh, Aggressor also doesn’t have a high DR rating but I’m not going to feign surprise about that. It’s inferior to Black Flag, and neither record is one you need in your life by any stretch of the imagination. Aggressor‘s appeal is a nostalgic one, reminding me of a simpler, now distant time when I looked hungrily at the buffet of metal and ate up everything with glee – this mostly well-constructed yet shallow and chug-heavy entertainment being one of my favorite dishes. But this can’t sustain us forever. Thirteen year old Diabolus would’ve loved this record, but much older Diabolus realizes that you can’t go home again when it comes to one’s earliest and least-informed taste in metal, and that’s a great thing. And yet, it’s still nice to see the odd Polaroid now and again.