No amount of misdirecting ledes or rhetorical flourishes can hide the fact that you already know Belgium’s Serial Butcher is a death metal band and Brute Force Lobotomy is a death metal record. I’ll admit that I’m a bit of a sucker for things being exactly what’s shown on the proverbial tin; I once tried Corona after reading that it was beer and I live more apprehensively to this day because of it. Go ahead and put a lime slice in it, but it’s still terrible. Plus, why would any sane adult go to the effort of cutting up a lime just so they can drink a beer? Temporally it’s ridiculous because in the time it takes you to slice up a lime you could simply open and start drinking a better beer, and economically it’s ludicrous because limes don’t grow on trees in your backyard and Corona itself isn’t free. Before I get sidetracked, let’s get down to the business of death shall we?
Unsurprisingly, Serial Butcher play prefix-less death metal that’s technical but not gratuitously so and plenty brutal but not brutal death metal. There are many peers to whom similarities arise, with the most popular names being Corpsegrinder-era Cannibal Corpse and the underrated Blood Red Throne. Brute Force Lobotomy plays in the same ballpark as Severe Torture and Saprogenic as well, throwing blast beats, tremolo riffs, chugging, tempo shifts, audio samples, and everything else that comes to mind when you think “death metal” into a blender and making a pretty gory and modernistic smoothie out of it.
Logically speaking, I like death metal so I like what Serial Butcher is doing here. Kenneth Keyser tears through plenty of good riffs, Kurt Termonia’s vocals aren’t terribly varied but are good nonetheless, and the whole record is a reminder of why I like agile meat and potatoes death metal. A high energy cut like “Born on a Chopping Block” quench the thirst for decay with a Severe Torture inspired sound that brings decent (meat)hooks to the party, particularly in the nifty tapping bridge. Blood Red Throne‘s Come Death gets a big sloppy kiss on “Hypovolemic Shock” with a bunch of groovier Cannibal Corpse-isms that make for solid headbanging fodder and a fun listen. Apart from having one of the top ten song titles of 2015, “Rusty Lawnmowing Massacre” teases a chugging break, delivers blast beats under a solid riff instead, and then brings the sledgehammer down for a punishing half-time beatdown afterwards. It sounds like a simple songwriting trick, but it really works.
To be blunt, the album on a whole works but it ultimately comes across as a mostly “stock” death metal effort. If someone were to ask you what death metal sounds like, you’d be absolutely correct in playing them Brute Force Lobotomy. If that same someone were to ask what great death metal sounds like, I can guarantee you’ll reach for something else. It’s not that Serial Butcher‘s music is bad or even uninteresting, but there’s no standout song on here that begs to be blasted for years to come or a consistently high level of quality that makes Brute Force Lobotomy stand out from the pack. While Serial Butcher is good, their obvious influences are better and if you’re a fan of those bands you likely have one or more of their records in your library, which makes Brute Force Lobotomy at best a decent addition and at worst entirely unnecessary. It’s a shame because again, it’s good, but Serial Butcher isn’t good enough to take the limelight away from genre greats both past and present or even second tier death metal bands. Instead, it falls into the abyss of competent, enjoyable, and thoroughly average death metal.
Brute Force Lobotomy embraces the modern approach to production, and as such Nico Veroeven’s solid performance suffers under compression and a replaced type of sound, but it’s mercifully not obnoxious nor damaging. Bass is loud and clear, which is a plus because Koen Van Goethem is quite the impressive player, and Keyser’s guitars are a little dirty but still allow every detail to be heard. Apart from turning the bass up a bit more, this is standard genre fare on the production front. I can go one step further and say that Serial Butcher is standard genre fare on every front, and that if you like death metal you should definitely check out Brute Force Lobotomy. You won’t be amazed, but you’ll be entertained, even if only for a couple of spins.