Everybody knows a local band like Chicago’s Bones. If you attend small scale metal shows in your vicinity with any sort of regularity, you know them well: a groove oriented death metal band, often fresh off work, that seems to open every show regardless of whether they fit the bill. This results in often hilarious pairings, including my recent bewilderment at Kansas City’s death/doomsters Pulchra Morte opening for Gloryhammer of all bands. Bones is the very embodiment of that same working class energy, but as they fall under the eclectic umbrella of Transcending Obscurity, curveballs are to be expected. Indeed, Diseased is deceptively diverse given its concise, half-hour runtime, but Bones‘ intriguing genre splicing all too often dampers their vicious death metal core.
In essence, Diseased is a party death metal album – rowdy, rugged, and best experienced through loud speakers and drained beer mugs. That said, the first three tracks had me pegging Bones for a no-frills band of Bolt Thrower worshippers. These cuts expertly capture the same sensation of being pulverized under a parade of tank treads. Shortly after, however, “No One Matters” whiplashes the listener through its hybrid of crust punk energy and relentless blastbeats, “Boozer” rocks along to Judas Priest-esque riffage, and “Broken Wheel” engages in bluesy, hard rock grooves. This unpredictability carries all the way through to the black metal climax of final track “The Future is Now,” but as every track is still deeply rooted in death metal tropes, Diseased never really feels meandering. It’s undeniably fun to unearth these surprises on first listen, and I can’t imagine that the energy of Bones‘ most aggressive moments would make for anything less than a helluva live presence.
If that last sentence felt weighted with caveats, you may be onto something. Indeed, the novelty of Diseased fades after first exposure, revealing some troubling inconsistencies. Bones‘ initially charming schizophrenia can’t hide that several riffs, or even entire tracks, feel rather boring. The title track, for instance, sports dishearteningly simplistic hard rock riffs, while the guitar work in “Down” confusingly resurrects the days when Godsmack held partial rule over rock radio. While these two tracks serve as Diseased‘s low points, Bones is generally less effective when not engaging with their legitimately entertaining brew of no-frills death metal. Again, death metal tropes serve as a constant, so even the weak tracks typically offer a moment or two of likeable aggression. I just can’t shake the feeling that Bones should focus almost solely on their obvious strengths, as their peripheral traits need significant refining.
The whole package might have been more enjoyable with a tighter rhythmic mindset, but drummer Joe Warlord is unfortunately a bit all over the place. Don’t take this as a criticism of his skills; the guy is an absolute machine, making full use of his kit through constant fills and pattern change-ups. It’s this kinetic energy, however, that feels at odds with the simplicity of Bones‘ individual compositions. Diseased is a largely mid-paced record, and Warlord’s kitwork is too damn busy to effectively complement the proceedings. Similarly, the lead vocals1 feel out of place, sporting a drunken, manic energy (think John Kevill’s performance on Warbringer‘s War Without End) that would have been better suited to thrash than death metal. The vocals are also mixed too high so as to feel somewhat displaced from the instruments, but otherwise, Diseased is a pretty great sounding album. The natural, punchy drums, reasonably rumbly bass, and classically blunt guitar tone combine to make a record that sounds more authentic than most throwback death metal outings.
Bones is a band that is clearly playing to their influences and having a damn good time of it, but passion without a clear mission statement does not a good record make. Diseased isn’t a bad record, either, with its first three tracks and “No One Matters” being legitimately exhilarating romps. As the album’s second half is free of highlights, however, it becomes a slog born of inconsistent songwriting and poor pacing. Some genre fans may find their charming, no-frills aesthetic alluring enough to overlook these flaws, as Bones‘ personality is palpable. Others may not be so easily won over, but I can recommend pretty much anyone check them out live if given a chance, as their music should make a perfect match for a live setting.
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Transcending Obscurity Official | Bandcamp
Websites: bonesdeathmetal.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/Bones-Chicago
Releases Worldwide: September 20th, 2019