Afterbirth – Four Dimensional Flesh Review

Welcome to my ass. We won’t be long. I’ve gathered us here today before my review of the brilliant new Afterbirth record because I didn’t want to drag you through here in the middle of it. Suffice it to say that my critique of Afterbirth‘s The Time Traveler’s Dilemma has proven unassailably correct: Afterbirth should get right back on the horse, they should keep exploring their progressive tendencies, and they absolutely should record with Colin Marston. Probably no thanks to my scolding they have. Four Dimensional Flesh is a triumph, one of the most charismatic and original death metal albums you’ll ever hear.

Like a sci-fi movie that compels you to fill in the space around its world, Four-Dimensional Flesh gives you just enough information to make you wonder how the hell Afterbirth came up with it. Whereas the animating question of The Time Traveler’s Dilemma was “Can we please release this album already?” Four Dimensional Flesh poses a more focused query; “What if Voivod, on occasion, slammed?” Well, it would be pretty fucking sick. And it is. Four Dimensional Flesh proposes an alternative timeline for death metal, one where the genre’s literary touchstone is not H.P. Lovecraft but Arthur C. Clarke, where death metal’s goal is not oppression but expansion. Instead of a nether realm or bloody dungeon, the tension and brutality of Four Dimensional Flesh play out in an adventurous and bright future. I would never have thought a death metal band could pull off retrofuturism, but Afterbirth expanded the possible.

One would think that expansive ’50s sci-fi feeling would work against the heaviness of slam – not so. Opening with “Beheading the Buddha,” the record centers on brutality and never apologizes for its harshness. Yet it takes so many turns that a brutal death metal album never should. “Spiritually Transmitted Disease” pitches None So Vile riffs against strummed chords that pull the listener through hyperspace, and it’s followed by the almost placid atmospheres of “Girl in Landscape.” Instrumentals like “Girl in Landscape” define the texture of Four Dimensional Flesh; the count-off that begins “Minimum Safe Distance” places Afterbirth far away from the claustrophobic horror of Wormed or the expansive cosmicism of Artificial Brain, and the swooping space synths of “Four Dimensional Flesh” would never show up on a different brutal death metal band’s record.

Naturally, Four Dimensional Flesh sounds incredible. In fact it might be the best-sounding record Unique Leader have ever put out. Will Smith gurgling over proggy brutal death metal is going to sound great no matter who records it, but just as he does with Artificial Brain, Colin Marston summons a beautiful palette of tones to surround Smith’s powerful roars. Cody Drasser’s guitars and David Case’s bass are heaviest above his range, cementing the vocals into the music and Smith’s voice as the anchor for the record’s brutality. The guitars have a buzzy, warm tone that lights up in a crackling neon during fast-strummed chords of “Minimum safe Distance” and binds together the knotty riffs of “Swallowing Spiders.” At the same time, David Case’s drums never compete with the other instruments for space, even during snare-kick-bell blasts.

I can’t help but compare Four Dimensional Flesh to Ensnared’s Inimicus Generis Humani. Bizarre as it may seem for me to be touched by a couple of death metal albums, I can’t help but listen to Flesh or Inimicus and feel warmed by the care and humanity of them. But there’s a big difference between the two as well; Afterbirth offer more than charm and care. Four Dimensional Flesh is both a clear labor of love and a singular artistic experiment. It’s both the great brutal death metal album the band wanted to make for more than 25 years and an extremely compelling and original take on of death metal itself. Four Dimensional Flesh pays obvious homage to groundbreaking bands like Voivod, Cynic, and Cryptopsy while creating a sound all its own, brimming with energy and promise. True to its name, Four Dimensional Flesh is as intelligent as it is brutal and as human as it is expansive.


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 1411 kbps PCM
Label: Unique Leader
Websites: afterbirth.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/afterbirth
Releases Worldwide:
March 13th, 2020

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