I miss the days when death metal still seethed with awful possibility. Before the genre put an emphasis on brutal brevity and cold proficiency, it plumbed extremity’s depths in search of vile new frontiers. Seattle’s Cerebral Rot drip with old school ichor. Their gait is jagged yet inexorable and their minds putrid and profane. Debut album Odious Descent Into Decay is a stillborn malignancy, dead to the world and possessed of a horror even the primordial night wishes it whispered. But while style must never want for substance, substance simply must have style. Even the most depraved deathsmen scar their esotericism with an indelible brand of some kind, no matter how warped or rare. I venerate the genre’s execrable education more than most, but how can I be expected to learn when I can’t recall the lesson?
Cerebral Rot share the same severed survival instincts as Autopsy but their incipient menace also echos a golgothic Incantation. Odious Descent Into Decay relies on primitive riffing to establish its presence. Like the verses of a dead boy’s poem, the rhythms are simplistic in their repetition but uncommonly morbid. There is an almost hypnotic quality to these song structures. After an affecting intro, the opening title track soon swells into the album’s signature cataclysmic chords. Chris Reifert’s predilection for cro magnon beats are immediately recognizable in Drew O’Bryant’s drumming. His choppy pounding compliments the palm-muted advance that propels the track onward, constantly courting the chaos of the lead-work. The song and, indeed, much of the album, eventually loops back around. This cyclical nature feels like a creative choice. Not only is Cerebral Rot intent on delivering a very deliberate bludgeoning, but they also appear keen to constantly erode inside an ever-present loop.
However, as a direct result of the songs’ engineering, Odious Decent Into Decay has some clear issues. The mid-pace that much of the album adheres to often works against some of the protracted song lengths. At a clean 45 minutes, the record appears much longer than its run-time suggests. The impenetrable repetition that resolves to galvanize the album sometimes ebbs into monotony, especially so divested of much discernible diversity. It doesn’t help that Odious Descent Into Decay is awfully front-loaded. The rhythm section liberally borrows from the book of throwing bolts in its classic guitar tone and “Reeking Septic Mass” certainly bulldozes with a familiar signature. However, it’s one of the last cuts that I can actively identify when recalling the track list. The record’s second half is so homogeneous that it utterly suffocates the songwriting. What we are left with is a cabal of elite excisions and a collection of definitively superfluous chaff.
The unfortunate loading is particularly frustrating in the face of the album’s early potential. Not least amongst such noteworthy moments is “Swamped in Festering Excrementia.” In an effort to implement some memorable nuance, the song conceals dissonant hooks of lead guitar about its putrid person. In direct opposition, “Cerebral Rot” seeks to counter the record’s trudging tempo with as much speed as the band’s Byzantine brutality can muster. No matter the direction, vocalist and guitarist Ian “Purveyor of Destruction” Schwab compounds the material’s intent with an array of effect-laden gurgles and growls. His subterranean style informs the album’s nature and performs more as an instrument and less as a narrative. It fits the the viscous aesthetic like a dead skin glove. His voice also sits perfectly in the mix, which is another feather in the cap for the album’s enviable production. At a consistent DR 10, Odious Descent Into Decay is a treat to experience and makes proper use of its breadth to endorse each musician’s contribution.
This style of death metal seems bent on slowly drowning its victims in their own curdled viscera. As such, its often innately divisive. The riffs are dense, the tempos methodical and the result is more ugly than dynamic. Even death metal aficionados either adore it or loathe it. I stand firmly with the former and make no mistake, so do Cerebral Rot. Guitarist Clyle Lindstrom even pulls double duty in the similarly thalidomide Fetid. But for death metal to truly excel in its dark passion play it must prize adroit writing. Something that Odious Descent into Decay only features sporadically. Fans of the genre will parse enough corrosive quality to scratch that grotesque itch. But for that definitive disaster, I’ll have to look elsewhere.