Years since I first broke my death metal cherry, the impressive stylistic breadth and evolution of this once purely primitive form of extreme art continues to astound me. Of course the popularity of death metal has inevitably lead to over-saturation in the modern market, creating a more arduous task of sifting through the dead weight and avoiding the bands bobbling in a sea of mediocrity. Among an exciting breed of young talent and up and comers, long running acts such as Immolation and Suffocation continue releasing top-notch material, keeping the younger folk on their toes and creating a healthy link between past and present. Meanwhile certain bands admirably plug away through lengthy careers, causing modest waves in the deepest corners of the underground without ever really exploding or setting the scene on fire. Case in point being long running Russian act Aborted Fetus, active since way back in 2000 and boasting a hefty sack of demos, splits and LP’s. The dubiously named outfit soundtrack their gory tales with a moderately brutal dose of slammy death, compacted into tight little packages of groovy, blast-ridden assaults.
The Art of Violent Torture marks the fifth album from Aborted Fetus and though I’m familiar with their established name, this is my first extended experience with the band. Opening with the short and surprisingly effective instrumental “The Art of Pain,” Aborted Fetus kick things off in a restrained fashion, providing a brief and deceptive scene setter that segues into “Boiled Alive,” a track that immediately represents the bread and butter of the album. Aborted Fetus stick to their game plan and certainly don’t attempt to reinvent the wheel or re-write the slam rule book. Coming across like a less brutal Devourment and more simplistic Dying Fetus, mixed with a smidgen of the straightforward gut-busting groove and bludgeon of Dawn of Demise, The Art of Violent Torture offers a crude and unsubtle beat-down, aiming to satisfy the most basic and primal of death metal urges for the more brutal and slam inclined.
Generally operating at a lively mid-paced pummel, with the speed rarely cranked beyond moderate levels, Aborted Fetus focus on blunt force trauma and sledgehammer execution to ram their point home. While the songs are all listenable and solidly crafted, they tend to bleed into one another, with variety and slick dynamics not the band’s strong point. The simple-minded attack and lack of deviations breeds monotony into the album, particularly when the musicianship and overall songwriting aren’t exactly high on wow factor. So while songs like the crushing “Blinded by Flame” and groovy bludgeon of “Burning at Stake” are solid workouts, inspiring some moderately pleasing slow motion headbanging, it’s hardly sufficient enough to warrant many return visits when more interesting options are readily available. The grooves are chunky, vocals appropriately filthy and guttural, and some of the riffs and slamming grooves are catchy in the short term, however the album doesn’t offer anything particularly exciting or noteworthy to recall once the bulldozing affair subsides.
When Aborted Fetus break the shackles of their predictable formula, shit gets a little more interesting and less formulaic. “Buried Alive” displays some nice melodic guitar work and stronger dynamics, weaving softer passages around thick, juicy grooves and solid riffs, while “Hanged and Quartered” features doomy elements amidst its brutally down-tuned force. With its more adventurous tempo variations and increased energy, “Breaking Wheel” is another stand-out tune that lends the album a welcome adrenaline boost. Musically, Aborted Fetus are solid but unspectacular, with no element truly standing out despite uniformly tight and workmanlike performances. And although the production is predictably brickwalled, the clean, burly tones and solid mix syncs well with the band’s style.
The Art of Violent Torture is a derivative, though competent and groovy slam death album from a veteran act content on playing it safe and delivering what long term fans are likely to expect. And that’s all good and well. It’s certainly not a terrible album by any means, nor is it particularly exciting, innovative or engaging enough to appeal far beyond the band’s established fanbase or the most hardcore of slam addicts. What’s left behind is a solid but ultimately disposable album.