Maryland’s Dying Fetus are resilient stalwarts still kicking out their grotesque and brutal technical slam death jams. Forming way back in 1991, I still fondly remember getting my arse kicked by their seminal 2000 classic Destroy the Opposition, a dizzying mix of hardcore influenced brutal death and technical slam with granite busting grooves and the hideous guttural burps of band leader John Gallagher. Underneath it all however, was an intelligence, both within the compositions and the fierce political context of the band’s then newfound lyrical direction. Of course topping the aforementioned Destroy the Opposition and preceding powerhouse Killing on Adrenaline was never going to be easy. When the band splintered, Gallagher was left with the unenviable task of picking up the pieces for 2003’s solid but underwhelming Stop at Nothing. Despite the myriad of line-up changes and a couple of sub-par albums, Dying Fetus have kept on trucking, paring themselves down to a lean and destructive trio and bouncing back to top form with 2012’s Reign Supreme. Now, some five years in the making they return with their eighth full-length release. So how does Wrong One to Fuck With stack up in the Fetus canon?
Beginning with typically frenetic guitar pyrotechnics and bruising drum work, “Fixated on Devastation” is the sound of classic Dying Fetus, sticking to their guns with a signature formula they’ve hardly tweaked throughout their lengthy career. And look, I’m cool with that. Their highly influential sound has broken boundaries in the past, so expecting a new Dying Fetus album to break the mold and offer drastic reinvention is frankly an unrealistic expectation. Writing songs that sound fresh and are worth a damn is the bigger challenge these veterans face. Thankfully, Gallagher has his long-term band firing on all cylinders and executing with trademark energy, finesse and technical precision, sounding as tight and motivated as ever. Everything sounds over-the-top in typical Dying Fetus style, while remaining song-based and heaps of fun to listen to. Arthritis inducing fret-board lunacy, hyperactive drumming, brutal dual vocals and tempo changes galore feature prominently, with those fat, juicy grooves and breakdowns keeping your body in a constant state of motion.
Striking a swift balance of brutality, groove, technicality and hooky songwriting, Dying Fetus again prove that age cannot weary them. “Die with Integrity” features a chunky opening refrain and classic Fetus riffing before exploding into a thrashy fireball of frantic speed, precision musicianship and slick tempo changes that are impeccably executed. Wrong One to Fuck With is loaded with killer songs that are classic Fetus in feel, yet sound as fresh and invigorating as anything they’ve released post-Destroy. Surprises are kept to the bare minimum, though Wrong One to Fuck With has a darker tone and more vicious edge compared to recent releases, exemplified on the snarling brutality of “Weaken the Structure,” and violently thrashy lurch of “Seething with Disdain.” However, those trademark head-caving grooves are never far away in the midst of the band’s chaotic and speedy tirades. A few self-editing issues aside, and the fact the dual vocal attack has never been as strong as the Netherton/Gallagher combo, the album delivers what I crave from modern Dying Fetus.
Impeccable musicianship is the Dying Fetus standard and the stability of their line-up has helped bring the best out of Gallagher and his reliable cohorts, bassist/upper range growler Sean Beasley, and the formidable Trey Williams. The latter absolutely slays on the kit with a highly energized, technical performance full of personality and creative flair. Gallagher remains the glue that holds the Fetus together, his distinctive and technical playing style perfectly welds dexterous leads, dizzying sweeps and infectiously brutal riffs into cohesive but constantly shifting structures that are never dull or one-dimensional. Production is pretty much par for the course for a modern Dying Fetus album, sounding robust and chunky whilst maintaining enough clarity and definition to pick out the ample complexities and subtle nuances.
Dying Fetus is back with a vengeance and seriously pissed-off chip on their shoulders, riding a second wind of creativity with their patented brand of techy slam death goodness. While it’s doubtful they will ever match the greatness of Destroy the Opposition, it’s nice hearing this legendary act punching out great material again. Disappointed with the recent Suffocation album? Well Wrong One to Fuck With has you covered and Fetus fanatics should be primed to blast and brawl with this latest slab of top shelf brutality.