Ferrous and I, drunk or otherwise, recently groused about who to blame for death metal’s modern sound.1 Much like my lumping of base-camp thrash into two molds, modern rip-offs and retro rip-offs, I think death metal organizes along similar lines.2 OSDM has its own originality problems, but it clearly surpasses the hyper-modern tripe so often homogenized that telling bands apart is like asking infant quintuplets which one shit their diaper. When Carrion exploded out of my headphones like a chestburster from a Nuclear Blast exec’s button-down, representing the latter of the two sects, I mulled the root cause of debut Time to Suffer‘s lack of originality.
We can’t blame OSDM. In spirit, opener-in-proper “Mutilation” slops out of a Floridian lunch pail abrim with gangrene digits and aging viscera. Malicious triplets and monstrous chord progressions just this side of slam give it a sickly demeanor that would fit right in with an early-90’s worship card. The best moments on the record do this with ease. This malignant tumor prevents the slick modern production from dragging Carrion into the forget-me-quick jar with all those other bland-ass sugar cookies. However, Time to Suffer gins up putridity and pestilence as a lure, sucking you into the van but never slamming the door and speeding off to horrors unknown. Despite the chainsaw massacre soundbite section of highlight “Urge,” Time to Suffer lacks true nastiness. The staccato chugs and double bass rolls of the Belgians do competent just fine, thank you very much. But decapitations? Eviscerations? Slyly reeling your prolapsed guts out of your anus with a pasta roller and feeding them to you in cute little bowtie shapes? You’ll never find something so disgusting to stick in your craw.
Is it Swedeath then? The inoffensive riffs and construction evoke the some of Scandinavia’s weaker stuff. And the sunlit reliance on the HM2 pedal likely contributed more to the growing behemoth of modern production than the down-and-dirty Morrisound. The ethos fits the production, but Carrion‘s atmosphere doesn’t. Their riffs seem exactly the sort that would benefit from a dose of melody. The inherent heaviness offers a gap-filled grin, with no teeth to make it shine. If “Death Sanity” could straddle the line between wham-bam-thank-you-slam, crushing drops, and pickle-tickling melody, it would be far more effective than stringing the first two along without the requisite sledgehammer brutality to tie them together. Instead, closers “Death Sanity” and “In the End, There Is Only Death” scuffle in Perfectly Fine® territory, unsure quite how to penetrate the inner sanctums of my memory.
Someone specific perhaps? That artwork brings Cattle Decapitation to mind, and they surely are a best-case scenario in infusing brutality and originality into tones less rigidly br00tal. But I think Lamb of God works better, and not just because of their outsized influence on the death/thrash/core-industries. In my early reviews, blissfully ignorant of all of this, I might have said there was a distinct Randy Blythe influence in Sven Van Severen’s vocals. But this is not the work of Lamb of God so much as it is the scene. Van Severen makes no attempt to conjure up some southern charm or moonshine mystique. He brings you the sound at its heart, brutalized and punched up, but still filtered by telling and re-telling, through countless CDs ripped and burned. He offers a status quo, delivered in 4/4, selected despite its contraindications to Time to Suffer‘s aspirations. It’s death metal settling for a thrash/groove/core sound that does nothing to accentuate the band’s natural strengths. It’s the same mid-range sound paired with the same caustic fury, resulting in the same floundering nothing as every other band that’s raged before them.
Ultimately, it must fall on the band. Carrion chose their venue. Time to Suffer works just fine as an offering, served by the prostrate at the feet of their betters. But the record does nothing to advance itself, nothing to distinguish itself from the rank and file. Carrion crush a near-standard barrage of riffs and howls into a package made to feel no different from every other band and sold as if it was the second coming of Chuck Himself.3 I just hope they don’t expect anyone to believe it. I certainly didn’t.
- I have no idea how I’d start these things if I didn’t have other people to complain
- Discounting, of course, all of the magical things happening with prog/blackened/brutal death (n’ roll). ↩
- If I had a nickel for every time I reviewed a band branded as doubtless to conquer the world, I would send David Ortiz to Grier‘s house to personally deliver a jersey signed by the 2004 Red Sox. ↩