Maybe you didn’t notice, but we’ve broken the curse of re-thrash and managed a little death metal renaissance this week at the AMG offices. With Necrovation and Sophicide dropping bigtime albums of deathy goodness, things have been satisfyingly morbid and heavy in the world. And to help keep things going, along comes the second release from California’s Deadly Remains and it’s loaded with ultra brutal death featuring heaps of Suffocation, Severe Torture and Cannibal Corpse worship and the occasional nod to Goreguts. While it’s not quite as techy as Sophicide, there’s a surprisingly high level of chops and technical prowess on display amongst the hammering, attacking, relentless assault and overwhelming hate. Yes, you heard it right, here’s more mercilessly brutal, yet tech-savvy death to while away the days as Necrophagist forms a task force to slowly begin considering whether or not to record a new album (as their guitars gently weep). While there are some issues with the material and certain aspects of their style, there are some interesting ideas and quality playing floating around on Severing Humanity. One thing’s for certain, they NEVER take the foot off the brutal pummelage pedal, regardless how far down the tech wankery hole they choose to travel. This is heavy as bejesus; almost TOO heavy at times, as I’ll get to momentarily.
As introductions to bands go (I never heard their Before the Nothing release), opener “Apocalyptic Birth” is a solid one. Besides the sheer nastiness of the sound (and especially the utterly deranged vocals of Ian Andrew), things are all over the place and maddeningly chaotic. There are blasts, crazy corkscrewing riffs that fly off in all directions and enough stop-start-shift contortions to make you feel a bit seasick. While it’s not new or innovative, it’s well executed and savage. Things really take off with “Cosmic Necrosis,” which introduces strange, Primus style bass slappery to rattle alongside the blasts and ruinous vocals. The bass fills and the twitchy, but oddly jazzy solos are a surprise and bound to impress. Other moments that caught my fancy include the nifty bass work at 2:21 of “Equilibrium Obsolete,” the quasi-flamenco guitar at 3:28 of “Instincts of Flesh,” and the funky, spaced out jam session at 2:28 of “Scriptures of Foreign Tongues.”
While the level of technical ability is never in doubt, Deadly Remains runs into issues with their song writing throughout the album. Some songs feel like vessels used to store a handful of interesting segments, without bothering to make them into cohesive compositions. Others are more simplistic but feel dull and generic (“Home Invasion” and “Human Trafficking”). The songs that work, work quite well, and demonstrate how to make technical music without compromising one iota of heaviness. However, this is an uneven release and it feels like the band is going through some creative growing pains.
Song writing issues aside, I was suitably impressed with the guitar work of Josh Kerstone and Ian Andrew, and especially by the bass work from Chris Dericco. He’s ever-present, audible and provides more than his share of cool accents and interesting details. On a less positive note, Ian Andrew’s vocals are a problem. While he surely sounds brutal and anguished, his style is way too monotonous, with no effort to provide variation. Imagine Obituary‘s John Tardy with a chronic case of pneumonia and possessed by the Great Demon of Unintelligible Vocals (a.k.a. Chris Barnes) and you’ll have an idea where things are heading. It’s a nonstop dry heave with zero effort to make the lyrics understandable (and I did, in fact, understand none of them). Honestly, it’s hard to listen to songs like “Home Invasion” and believe they even bothered writing lyrics. It’s all gibberish talk, like a big, angry, mutated baby. By the fourth song, it started to feel like the vocals were holding the music back, and that feeling just got worse as things skipped and tripped along. They undermine the nuanced moments and don’t even add much to the heavy sections.
While not quite a “complete” album, Severing Humanity is a pleasant enough distraction. With the talent they possess, Deadly Remains certainly bears watching. If they can fine tune the writing, they could quickly find themselves moving up the tech death pyramid. If you love your death broootal and techy, you could do far worse than giving this a spin. I’m looking forward to seeing what they pull off next time. Potential album art of the year too.