One of death metal’s weirdest phenomenon was the so-called “death ‘n’ roll” movement. First popularized by albums like Entombed’s Wolverine Blues and Carcass’s Swansong, death ‘n’ roll is kind of like your weird older cousin at the family reunion. On one hand, you have to love him because he’s family — but at the same time, nobody really talks about him or seems to be totally comfortable in his presence. Point is, death ‘n’ roll is one of those genres that most people seem to tolerate rather than actually enjoy, and maybe that’s why bands like Lubricant are so often overlooked.
Formed in 1988 as O.V.D., the Finnish quartet changed their name to Lubricant in 1990, switching from speed metal to a rockier version of early Carcass in the process. Sadly, the group disbanded before internet bloggers ever had a chance to make jokes about their sexually suggestive moniker, leaving in their wake only a handful of demos and 1993’s Nookleptia EP. After reforming and rejoining the live circuit in 2015, Lubricant are now releasing Swallow This to herald their comeback.
“Ooh!” I said upon first seeing the promo listing. “A long-awaited full-length by an obscure death/rock hybrid?” Unfortunately, no. Instead, Swallow This is a compilation of the band’s Swallow the Symmetric Swab demo and the aforementioned Nookleptia EP, remastered to recapture the “dust and venom” of the group’s original vision. The good news? The material is quite enjoyable and cohesive enough that, had I not known better, I may have figured this was a long lost full-length anyway.
Opener “Telesyphilis of Exfetation” showcases much of what you’ll hear over Swallow’s 41 minutes: bouncy riffs, constipated-Muppet vocals, scattered blastbeats, and a big, fat, warm guitar tone that wouldn’t be out of place on a Kyuss album. As is obvious with song titles like “Pulpectomy” and “Expulsive Gastroscopia,” the most obvious influence is Symphonies-era Carcass, with the menace turned down and the swagger turned way up. Take second track “Paralysis Bulbaris,” which continues with a loping gait of a riff before repeatedly hitting a wonked-out note in a way that, again, sounds like a stoner rock band.
As Swallow continues, it becomes more and more clear that Lubricant are actually less of a death n’ roll act and more just a death metal band that know how to write catchy songs and really good riffs. While many of these 11 tracks waltz along at a mid-paced tempo, the guitars are brimming with momentum and energy in a way that “darker” death metal bands seem to lack. The result is a fun, shuffling feel that —although a tad monotonous by record’s end – is punctuated by enough off-the-wall moments to keep things entertaining. Take “Inflammatorius Pulmonectomia,” which breaks its start-stop rhythm with an effect that literally sounds like a Donald Duck quack. It’s bizarre, and yet somehow feels amazingly catchy in context.
As the final six tracks belong to the Nookleptia EP, the rock influence increases toward the end, which actually makes Swallow more intriguing as it progresses. “Declaration of Gallopping Consumption” begins with a shout of “Oh yeah!” and a shameless hard rock riff — albeit a quick and complex one — while “Thrombose” hits some chords which recall early doom like Paradise Lost before incorporating some far-off, smooth clean vocals.
There are moments when it’s apparent the demo tracks were probably remastered from a rough production job, but in all the sound on Swallow is warm, powerful, and surprisingly clear, accentuating the buzzy guitars and seamlessly integrating the source material into a cohesive package. While a bit more solos or balls-out rocking riffs would have been fun — not unlike what country-mates Xysma did with their Beach Boys-inspired First & Magical — in all Swallow represents an interesting and enjoyable romp through the work of a band who played what was largely one of death metal’s evolutionary dead-ends. I can only hope we’ll be seeing new material from Lubricant in the future. If nothing else, this compilation certainly makes me feel greased up and ready for these Finns to satisfy me with a proper… full-length.1