Monty Python’s Life of Brian had a tagline that said something to the effect of: “See the movie that’s controversial, sacrilegious, and blasphemous. But if that’s not playing, see The Life of Brian.” Remove the satire and replace Life of Brian with Infection Legacy from Canadian death/thrashers Death Toll Rising, and you’ll have a fairly good idea of what you’re getting into here on their follow-up to their embarrassingly titled Defecation Suffocation debut.
Infection Legacy boasts an ultra-clean production that leaves the sound bland and desiccated. The best of thrash, death or any combination of the two, lie in a band’s ability to communicate raw, vital energy to the listener – not through polish. Unfortunately, Death Toll Rising are simply too conservative and self-conscious to let loose and they fail to realize that riffs rip heads off, not Pro Tools.
Imagine what B-sides to one of Exodus’s last three records could’ve sounded like with a death metal bent and you have “Scorched Earth Policy” and “Revelation Despair,” complete with groovy bounce to match the thrashy verses and deft lead guitar – but don’t forget to sand down the guitar tone a little and make the riffs significantly less memorable. Their death metal side is accentuated in songs like “Born to Defile” and “Judas Cradle.” A reasonably imaginative person could probably anticipate what any of these songs sound like without hearing a second of the album itself.
As I was prepping for this review, I listened to this album a handful of times – about three or four times all the way through, with scattered songs in the car or while walking between classes – and it’s still a challenge to tell any one song apart from any other. In short, Infection Legacy is average. It’s aggressively average in that there is nothing, nada, zip, zero remotely unique about it. In fact, it’s as perfectly featureless as music gets. Is this necessarily a bad thing? Not necessarily. Is Midnight really anything other than glorified Venom worship? Maybe not, but I’ll be damned if Satanic Royalty wasn’t one of the best records released in 2011 (I probably go back to that record more often than anything Venom ever released, sacrilegious as that probably is) [Blasphemer!! — Steel Druhm].
This year has seen bands like Craven Idol and Sacriphyx release excellent records that drop the pretense and go straight for the throat. Neither of them try to reinvent the steel at all, but they more than make up for their lack of originality by offering a surplus of character, attitude, and most importantly, songwriting acumen (read: riffs!). Death Toll Rising’s workmanlike banality on the other hand is almost suffocating, a fact especially relevant and detrimental in today’s crowded heavy metal playing field. Hell, even Six Feet Under – often crowned the reigning kings of generic death metal – are kind of charming in their own right (or maybe that’s just me) [It’s totally just you. — Steel Druhm].
Perhaps it’s time for a fast food analogy: when you go to Carl’s Jr. for your late night fix of spicy chicken sandwiches, are you going to be disappointed that these two particular spicy chicken sandwiches happen to taste exactly like you thought they would? Nope – you pay for that familiarity. It’s not so often that the craving hits, but when it does, there’s only one thing that can hit you right in that sweet spot. After all, it’s only so long one can sit poised with a furrowed brow and a fist under the chin while listening to the new Gorguts before the craving for something more straightforward kicks in. As it stands, however, Death Toll Rising have to remove themselves from their comfort zone – even if just a tiny bit – if they want to achieve anything beyond being a wholly average support act for the likes of those who can deliver the goods.