200 Stab Wounds – Slave to the Scalpel Review

Every so often, I’ll spot a promo that I have no choice but to grab. It’s a unique brand that I have trouble passing up: old school death metal with a gore-splattered cover from a band for which subtlety is a dirty word. Morally-bankrupt song titles (with even worse lyrics) and a grotesque, bludgeoning sound. And while there’s always a wide variation in quality, I find that each spin is fun in its own horrific way. This was precisely why I picked up Slave to the Scalpel, the first full-length release from Cleveland-based 200 Stab Wounds. Having only formed in 2020, I claimed it as my own, intrigued to hear how the first album from a newly-established, gore-obsessed OSDM band would sound to a long-time fan of this most putrid of genres.

For those brave souls who choose to take Slave to the Scalpel for a spin, they know exactly what to expect. And yet if the name, album title and track list don’t get the point across, you need look no further than the cover art. 200 Stab Wounds’ artwork is reminiscent of Butchered at Birth and any number of slam covers, complete with meat hooks, bone saws and delightfully displayed innards. This same emphasis on in-your-face barbarism is equally apparent on the songs themselves. Wave after wave of thick, buzzy riffs chugging away high in the mix, double bass blast beats for days and guttural vocals straight from death metal central casting are on display across nine brief but vicious tracks; all evocatively titled, bloodied and biled. As a longtime fan of the Floridian school of DM filth, I was more than happy to take this road so often traveled.

After even a casual perusal of the track titles, I probably came away with the same thought you did: “wait…isn’t that a Cannibal Corpse song?” You’d be forgiven for thinking that, because it’s clear the immortal CC has had a profound and lasting influence on 200 Stab Wounds. From first track “Skin Milk” all the way to closer “Expirated Spatter,” there’s no end to the chunky, impenetrable riffs that have come to exemplify the genre. Coupled with a frenetic double bass onslaught and more growls than you can shake an offal-coated stick at, Slave to the Scalpel succeeds in enveloping the listener in a wall of aural fury that can at times border on grind. And yet 200 Stab Wounds are no stranger to the groove, often segueing from bursts of speed into a mid-tempo chug perfectly tailored for your friendly neighborhood mosh pit. This is especially noticeable on songs like “Tow Rope Around the Throat,” “Itty Bitty Pieces” and the titular “Slave to the Scalpel.” Add in some fun 80s horror movie synths here and there, elements of slam and grindcore, and a single horrific, ripping, squelching, screaming intro that goes on for far too long (you can find that one yourself), and you’ve got the makings of a serviceable throwback death metal album.

That’s where the issues arise. Like so many AMG readers, 200 Stab Wounds very clearly count themselves amongst the unwashed legions of Dying Fetus, Cannibal Corpse, Suffocation and Obituary fans. As a dedicated death metaller myself, I was drawn to give Slave to the Scalpel a spin based on some of these very same comparisons I found in the promo material. Unfortunately, it appears the band was so inspired by others that they forgot to pursue their own sound. There’s plenty to enjoy, but the impact is lessened once you realize you’ve seen this bag of tricks before. From the cover art to the song titles, from the riffs to the subject matter, it’s evident that 200 Stab Wounds has a point of view, it just isn’t their own. While newer acts like Carnation and Undeath are able to deliver old school vibes while chipping away at confines of the genre, 200 Stab Wounds are happily trapped with it, either unable or unwilling to sound like themselves.

Slave to the Scalpel is a fun disappointment. In trying to find the right words, co-worker Twelve came to my rescue: 200 Stab Wounds aren’t bad, they’re just inauthentic. They’re the kind of band I really want to check out two albums from now, when they’ve gotten the hero-worship out of their system and realized they can pay homage without losing themselves in the process. As I eagerly await that future release, It seems that I’ll be reluctantly placing their debut on the chopping block.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Maggot Stomp
Websites: 200stabwounds-maggotstomp.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/200stabwounds
Releases Worldwide: November 12th, 2021

« »