Our very own Eldritch Elitist recently posited that death metal is at its peak when following either one of two separate paths: an unapologetic flogging or creative innovation. He’s not wrong. But there is also a third route worthy of consideration. The one unashamedly paved with the gilded bones of the genre’s revered forefathers. How do we quantify those bands who patch their material together from piecemeal legacy? It’s an easy approach to snub, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest the potential for success. England’s Body Harvest were once something of a local band for me. I had the pleasure of watching them support Hideous Divinity in 2017 when their brutal death metal menaced my nervous system with aplomb1. Now, with second album Parasitic Slavery firmly in my grasp, I’m afforded the opportunity to better explore the band’s sound. The experience begs the question: where does homage end and mimicry begin?
Body Harvest take a multitude of cues from assorted brutalia. While I don’t like to rest any review on the back of blunt comparisons, sometimes it’s unavoidable. As if the title of opening instrumental “The Wrath of Ra” wasn’t already an undead giveaway, the most immediate influence is Nile. Their penchant for incorporating eastern strains into a confrontational crushing is prevalent here. Although the Americans hardly have the monopoly on that feature, their impact on Body Harvest is especially clear on “Global Decimation” and “The Prophet.” Sample-backed brutal riffing and a cacophony of cymbal swells trace the military drumming. It’s cinematic stuff, but noticeably derivative.
Although the material also boasts plenty of Hate Eternal‘s perpetual bluster, it’s the blast-centric death metal of Italy that is most prominently etched into this purloined flesh. “Consumed by Tyrants” and “Narcissistic Being” are born of the same Vile Conception and embody a musical Paradogma that ensures a merciless beating with little room for Sedition. However, amidst the amalgamation of genetics that informs Body Harvest‘s chimerical DNA, there appear a few trace elements of unique genome sequencing. Guitarists Jake Ettle-Iles and Gareth Nash are keen to imprint their own writing on Parasitic Slavery. When they’re not trading huge breakdowns and the occasional concrete slam, they’re indulging in some creative lead work. “Consumed by Tyrants” features a closing solo, which cuts through the wall of riffing with an alarming siren-scream pitch. It’s just a shame this creative vein doesn’t permeate more of the album.
The mix and master on Parasitic Slavery was handled by the ever-prolific Jonny Pettersson (Wombbath, Heads for the Dead, Nattravnen, Ashcloud). His guidance puts emphasis on the guitars and Nash’s guttural vocals, which occasionally hint at Cryptopsy‘s more savage histrionics. Will Pearson’s snare tone is dynamic but his kick drum is often reduced to an unfortunate click. Sadly, the master offers little recourse. Coupled with the album’s glaring front-loading, Parasitic Slavery‘s relentless pace begins to congeal inside the compressed mid-range. Despite the potency of “Hierarchy of Grief” and “Darkness Descends,” fatigue sets in all too fast.
The difference between a Frankensteinian patchwork and a modern Prometheus lies in the minutiae. Body Harvest play death metal, a genre with a mind bent only on violence. To that end, Parasitic Slavery is an unadulterated success. It quakes and shifts with all the requisite force but it is also frustratingly eager to bury its own identity. The album is more than capable of blowing my brains out. But instead of then enticing me with another play-through, I’m more convinced to plunder their superiors’ works instead. Body Harvest pack plenty of brawn, but their twists and turns are just all too familiar and, ultimately, provide a whole that simply can’t surmount the sum of its parts.