The promo bin here at the AMG offices is subject to an everflowing stream of material, but now that us new bloods are officially leaving our scrubby footprints wherever we trod, the pickings can get a little sparse. Once it’s been thoroughly picked over, the rest of us are left staring into its depths at the remaining two hundred (give or take) derivative black metal records, hoping in vain to catch a glimpse of something worthwhile. Sometimes, you just gotta get in there elbows deep and hope that whatever you pull out is, at the very least, listenable. Such was the case with my discovery of Stench Price. Scroll down a few paragraphs and check out that promo image. Can a death-grind equivalent of Avantasia featuring members of Cynic, Anthrax and Bolt Thrower possibly live up to its pedigree? And why does the promo image credit these musicians with the bands they’re least known for? Let’s grind out some answers.
Stench Price mastermind Peter Shallmin is no stranger to super groups thanks to his prog project Escapethecult, but Stench Price sounds neither like a melding of brilliant minds nor a singular, focused vision. Rather, I get the impression that Shallmin is a mad scientist working with vials of grindcore, death metal, punk rock, doom, and bossa nova, and he accidentally spilled all of the ingredients into the vat without bothering to mix his concoction. The result is a charmingly weird yet unbalanced little record that peaks and valleys in quality harder than Megadeth‘s discography. The periodic injections of bossa nova are the primary gimmick here, with frantic blastbeats abruptly turning on a dime into marimba-lead tangents of lounge music. Stench Price clearly plays by no one’s rules but their own, and I have to give them props for crafting something this unabashedly off-kilter.
The seemingly unachievable genre melpot is both a selling point of Stench Price and its downfall. It’s a novel approach that the band doesn’t quite seem to know how to work with. “The Vitality Slip,” for instance, veers into bossa nova territory for a full minute and a half before resuming its grindcore onslaught, and it feels as though Shallmin plunked this tangent down in the studio without considering how it would fit into the context of the track as a whole. Elsewhere, Stench Price‘s avant-garde elements are inexplicably absent, with “4.27.15” and “The Genocide Machine” offering straightforward, grindy death metal at the expense of the album’s more novel leanings. The final package is so uneven that it comes across as a grand, star-studded experiment that’s only half successful.
I say “half successful” because when Stench Price reaches its full potential, it can really kick some ass. “Pressure,” the indisputable highlight of the record, is a delightfully bonkers mash-up of death-grind and punk that incorporates Stench Price‘s bossa nova elements far more naturally than other tracks on the album. The optimistic chord progressions make it sound like Blink-182 by way of Dying Fetus on a lounge music kick, and it’s just as bizarre and amazing as that sounds. Aside from “Pressure” there are enough moments scattered throughout to maintain my interest; I particularly like the way the slow, chugging triplet riffs contrast with frantic hardcore drumming on “Furnaces Burn,” and the melodic doom section reminiscent of While Heaven Wept at the conclusion of “The Vitality Slip” is a welcome surprise. These memorable instances, however, are too often glued together by fairly standard grindcore that sounds weak due to flat production. The tones are good and the bass plays an audible role, but everything is mixed so evenly that Stench Price doesn’t hit nearly as hard as a grind record should.
While I can’t claim that Stench Price is a successful super group, their one-of-a-kind approach and the ridiculous level of talent on display (which would require a full separate review to cover entirely) makes Stench Price an album worthy of discussion and at least one full listen. At only eighteen minutes long that shouldn’t be a tall order, and if you’re less of a cynical asshole than I am, the sheer weirdness of this thing may be enough to warrant a purchase. I find myself charmed yet ultimately underwhelmed due to its inconsistencies, but if Shallmin can pull together enough talent for a more cohesive follow-up to Stench Price, I’ll absolutely be on board.