Just one look at the cover of Cut Up’s Forensic Nightmares will tell you pretty much everything there is to know about the music hidden beneath it. What else could a cool depiction of a disassembled human body represent other than some cool, old school death metal? Featuring ex-Vomitory members (Tobias “Tobben” Gustafsson on drums, Anders Bertilsson on guitars, and Erik Rundqvist on vocals & bass) with quite a pedigree in the genre and some fresh blood (Björte on vocals and guitars), Cut Up‘s debut full-length takes no prisoners and delivers some of this year’s finest death metal.
There’s not much else to be said about this album, really. The band is imbued, from head to toe, with old school death metal ingredients. These guys don’t try to reinvent or refresh the formula, God forbid were they to introduce “innovative” elements, because they obviously feel that there’s nothing wrong with their retro approach. In reality, that only holds true if you have good tunes and mighty riffs and holy moly, do Cut Up have both of those things in spades. While their music is reminiscent of legends of the scene such as Dismember and Obituary and contemporaries like Bloodbath and Gruesome (who are not a mere Death tribute band), what sets them apart is the high quality of the material. As opposed to the latest Bloodbath record, Forensic Nightmares feels like the better crafted platter and one made with much more gusto. Some of the biggest gripes with Grand Morbid Funeral were related to the songwriting and tracks that, after repeated listens, started blurring into one another and feeling too alike. On the other hand, the 11 relatively short songs on Forensic Nightmares, miraculously avoid sounding like you’re listening to the same cut over and over again. Small changes in pace and grooves abound, and killer riffs ensure that each tune has enough of a hook to keep the listener focused and pleased.
Because of that, there are no clear winners in the “best song” category, but neither are there any “lame, overwrought, and forced” candidates that could incite a longing for barbarous, reckless surgery and disposal by amputation. Whether it’s the all-out assault and brutal aggressiveness topped with some delicious grooves on “Burial Time,” the slower, lush (well, relatively speaking) cut “Remember the Flesh,” or the blazingly fast blast beats and twirling, buzzing riffs on “A Butchery Improved” and “Order of the Chainsaw,” Cut Up deliver the rancid goods. No fillers here, no sir. Still, it’s interesting that the band sounds their heaviest and best during the groovier and slower, almost melodic death metal passages that provide respite from the otherwise constant, often savage pummeling. Or maybe it’s the way that these two distinct approaches intertwine and combine that ultimately maintains the interesting dynamics.
Another aspect that reinforces the idea that you’re listening to an album recorded some twenty years ago, during the golden era of the genre, is the curiously crunchy and meaty production that makes the instruments have a dated, vintage vibe. From the impactful guitar tone to the way the bass surfaces at just the right times, Forensic Nightmares is a demonstration of mixing and mastering done right (by Ronnie Björnström), while also demonstrating just how crucial it is to adapt the production and mix to the music. The same sense of skill is present in all areas of the record, so there’s not much to nitpick about here. The vocal delivery, the drumming, the guitars, and the bass – all just fit. And the lyrics? Take another look at the cover.
If you’re cynical or momentarily pissed off, Forensic Nightmares can be an easy album to target and diss, the obsession with everything retro rearing its ugly head and whatnot. But if you’re like me and don’t think there’s such a thing as “too much old school death metal,” feel free to add half a point to the grade and enjoy what’s one of the grooviest death metal releases of the year. It just might help you survive the boring summer heat and the insufferable spleen it brings along.