According to the inexhaustibly kvlt amongst our readership, we don’t review death metal. This is, of course, rubbish, mostly because, musically speaking, death metal is just about my favorite thing, and while I enjoy all of its increasingly technical incarnations, a platter of the traditional riff-beast is always certain to set my chops salivating. Cardiac Arrest are a band after my own heart — perhaps literally — serving the kind of classic cruelty the northern peak of my decades compromised vertebral column can freely enjoy without having to break out the algebra function of my old calculator. Now six albums into their twenty-year career, Chicago’s native ne’er-do-wells have honed their craft in preparation of A Parallel Dimension of Despair, and the album title says it all — a portal to hell where aural horrors roam, multi-limbed, ominously toothed and gorged on poseur souls.
I didn’t pick up the band’s trail until 2012’s Vortex of Violence, immediately appreciating the often grinding blunt force trauma Cardiac Arrest so liberally lavish. Propulsive riffs abound, occasionally indulging in a tachycardic terror of grind-happy blasting to accentuate their uncompromising death frenzy. Matching an often Floridian flavor with punk-infused patterns, the band’s modus operandi is unchanged, but this is an act entirely uninterested in reinventing the wheel, content instead to set it on fire and send it careening down the hill, a propensity to blast first, ask questions later the evil ignition.
As all good openers should, “Immoral and Absurd” leaves it all on the pitch, with furious riffing and a tandem of chaotic soloing. The song features plenty of grind in the rhythm department but never more so than on “Rotting Creator.” Clocking in at just over a minute, the track screams through its fleeting run-time with deceptive memorability. Similarly sinister, “When the Teeth Sink In” musters a Malevolent Creation of its very own with Adam Scott and Tom Knizner swinging a scything set of tremolos, while “Drudge Demon” recalls classic Deicide in its methodical chorus. The record doesn’t falter – its material is uniformly entertaining; unfortunately, and particularly in retrospect, Parallel Dimension‘s rather obvious nemesis is repetition. The singular vision of tempo the band works with is doubled down upon a little too zealously, so by the time the album does change pace on “This Dark Domain,” it’s perhaps too late. The song metes out a Morgoth-menaced unyielding restraint, and is indeed one of the record’s best, but could have featured earlier. Similarly, closer, “Voices From the Tomb,” a song that sagely seeks to draw all of Parallel Dimension‘s elements to its mottled being, attempts to build on the band’s limited arsenal – but by this time, the novelty of velocity has worn off, rendering the album’s grand finale a little bland.
Cardiac Arrest have always been proficient at penning material with an urgent immediacy, and although some songs are distinctly better than others, a collection of great choruses shine through — the memory of Adam Scott’s incessant vocal savaging barking the respective refrains of “Unforgiving… Unrelenting” and “It Takes Form” remain grafted to my psyche. Sadly, while blessed with a roomy production, the album’s mix is a little lacking for drummer Nick Gallichio. His kick drum is almost imperceptible, so when the band let a searing tempo off the chain, which is often, I’m only aware of a distant kinetic presence to underpin the man’s able blasting.
It’s an interesting commentary on the innately contrary nature of both semantics and human nature that we actively shun “predictability” whilst sub-consciously craving “dependability”. Cardiac Arrest are predictably dependable, and A Parallel Dimension of Despair is no different. This is one-size-fits-all death metal that will appeal mostly to fans of the genre, so if you’re searching for that record to redefine your lacking brutal bent, then this isn’t the beating you’re looking for. However, for those of us already beguiled, Cardiac Arrest have furnished us with another feral foray into the old school, that proves ingenuity isn’t always necessary to entertain.