Like good whiskey, good old school death metal ages well. Like poor whiskey, the new wave of old school death metal sometimes produces things that purport to be in similar quality to the well-aged stuff, but are just cheap swill in an old looking package. Nobody can try everything, and to attempt it would mean being drunk all the time and only listening to OSDM releases, many of which are probably lacking anyway. Nonetheless, I try to be optimistic about this whole thing and pick up OSDM when I see it in the promo bin. Maybe there’s a diamond in the rough waiting to be unearthed from a field of mediocrity and worse. Maybe there isn’t, and I’ve wasted my time searching for fool’s gold. Philadelphia OSDM merchants Percussor and their second full-length Disturbing Reality has wound up in my sieve, and now it’s time to stop dawdling and appraise the thing.
Percussor plays a type of death metal that, to my ears, aims to synthesize old Incantation with early Obituary like Rottrevore did on Iniquitous in 1993. The song structures and riffs are nowhere near as intricate as Incantation’s are, and Disturbing Reality doesn’t achieve the punishing brutality of Rottrevore either. While the riffs are more slithery than Cause of Death, the songs themselves go through some pretty basic motions for the most part, making Percussor’s sound an easily digestible and fairly unchallenging one. The vocals don’t go for a guttural roar, a deep Pillard-esque growl, or a demented Tardy style howl, opting instead to be a gruff shout not unlike Frank Mullen’s performances on later Suffocation records. This adds a certain agility to them that is sometimes exploited nicely in the quicker songs.
When Percussor hits the sweet spot in their style, they can make a solid tune. “Inflicted Insanity” does the Rottrevore thing rather well, and some riffs even have a burly Morta Skuld vibe to them. The riffing moves between simplistic and serpentine, giving the impression of an intriguing sort of free play in songwriting. This is far and away the best track on Disturbing Reality, and nothing else matched it in either interest or quality to my ears. “Leading the Sycophants” ditches Obituary for Cianide while still sticking with McEntee & Co., and bases itself on a groovy chug that’s actually pretty catchy. The rest of the song sounds like Incantation outtakes though, so perhaps the contrast made it sound better than it was.
It should be obvious that I’m fairly unenthused about Disturbing Reality. Making matters worse is Percussor’s self-imposed Malarkey Quota, which is the only way to explain some songwriting decisions present. Remember Morbid Angel’s “Hymn to a Gas Giant” interlude? Percussor sure did, and basically wrote an entire instrumental called “Agoraphobic Dementia” based around that sort of dicking about on guitar that goes absolutely nowhere for nearly five minutes, backed by the most boilerplate death metal drumming you can imagine. “Arrogant Waste of Flesh” arrogantly wasted my time with nearly a minute long big rock ending, made all the more gratuitous because the song itself is a mediocre attempt at a thrashier number that’s two and a half minutes long. Mathematically, the ending is over one third of the track. Kudos to them for committing to the bit though, because “Murdered” decides to torpedo one of the better Rottrevore impressions here by concluding with nearly four entire minutes of guitar noise. It’s the ending of the record too, so it’s not even a convenient break in which to go make Pizza Pockets in the microwave. It serves literally zero purpose, and I don’t use the word literally unless I literally mean literally.
I’m always willing to give OSDM the benefit of the doubt, but Disturbing Reality just didn’t cut it. Of the songs I didn’t mention here, the riffs uniformly stayed at an uninspiring level of quality and gave me little reason to continue listening. The production is dynamically squashed but tolerable outside of the drums, which sound plastic and lifeless, but not in the charming ways of old when nobody quite knew how to record death metal drums. We know very well how to do so now, so this is irritating. At least the bass is thick and audible despite the lack of headroom.
Percussor have made a largely boring record with a side of frustrating wastes of time. There aren’t any great riffs, no song that can stand beside even the second tier of OSDM material, and there’s no real reason to spend your time with this. My reality was not disturbed enough to remember much of anything here, but the reality of OSDM remains, as always, untouched: write great riffs and great songs, or be condemned to the graveyard of tepid death metal.