As metalheads in modern society, we are spoiled for choice with the sheer magnitude of artists releasing material covering a multitude of genres and sub-genres. Death metal, in particular, continues to thrive, though separating the weak from the real contenders can be a messy business due to the intense overcrowding of the modern market. Luckily, death metal comes in so many intriguing varieties catering for differing tastes, ensuring the genre is never wanting for quality acts, from veteran enforcers to talented upstarts. But I hold particular respect for the underdog veteran acts toiling away in relative obscurity, keeping it real in the underground. One such act is Russian death metal juggernaut Aborted Fetus, returning in quick time with their sixth LP of groovy, straightforward brutality, entitled The Ancient Spirits of Decay.
Last year’s The Art of Violent Torture was a competent, vaguely brutal and slammy, but altogether forgettable death metal album. So with a relatively short turnaround, I was interested to hear if the band had managed to cook up a collection of tunes worth my attention in our increasingly time-poor society. Not a great deal has changed between albums. The band still deliver a largely no-frills barrage of thick, blunt force explosions with the subtlety of a hammer blow to the side of the skull. Nearly 50 minutes of material is crammed into 13 tracks, a handful of songs managing to at least temporarily scratch that primitive death metal itch, offering a decent soundtrack to pounding brews or pumping weights.
Taking the bludgeoning, bells, and whistles free approach of Internal Bleeding, Dawn of Demise and Skinless, coupled with the robust sense of guttural groove perfected by Dying Fetus, The Ancient Spirits of Decay is a hefty, testosterone-fueled ride. Cuts like the ridiculously groovy slam and blast approach of “Drenched Eyes in Boiling Oil” revels in its headbangable simplicity and rollicking double bass. Similarly, “Nailed to the Cross” and the charmingly titled “Genital Torture by the Alligator Tongs” are robust, riff-rumbling monsters. Unfortunately, songs of this quality are few and far between and excessive bloat and monotony creep in, leaving little to recall once the beat-down subsides. It’s the inconsistency and unremarkable elements in the Aborted Fetus song-writing that remains a recurring issue that dulls my overall enjoyment of the album, despite its occasionally stronger moments and a few choice cuts. There’s not a huge amount of variety present between songs and though most the material is pretty listenable, it’s hardly ear-grabbing stuff.
While the individual performances are all decent enough, especially the dense, chewy basslines, the song-writing only scratches a temporary itch and rarely penetrates beyond skin deep. There’re some solid material and a few groovy smash and grab delights. Yet there’s not enough substance, memorable hooks or originality here to sustain interest or warrant the album’s bloated length, resulting in a mildly entertaining, though mostly unexciting and overlong album. The production is loud and in-your-face, though serviceable enough despite the unpleasant compression. And it’s refreshing to hear the bass having such a notable presence.
Aborted Fetus is a decent quality mid-tier band that play competent, though largely disposable, death metal. The Ancient Spirits of Decay certainly suffices for short-term entertainment for listeners that like their death served with a bounty of meaty grooves and caveman-styled brutality. Unfortunately, Aborted Fetus don’t pack the song-writing punches required to sustain longer-term interest, demand repeated listens, or a wholehearted recommendation.