Bitter. Hot. Harsh. My first sip of black coffee wasn’t great, but I’ve been drinking it ever since. The coffee didn’t change. I did. Looking back at what I wrote about Ektomorf’s Aggressor in 2015, I was clearly exasperated; Ektomorf seemed to lack some complexity or authenticity I was searching for in metal. Reviews reflect not just where the author was but what he thinks and why, if written successfully. On Fury, Ektomorf have predictably remained the same. With my limited ire directed now towards rigid groupthink and wanton demagoguery, approaching a simplistic, accessible, kinetic, and ultimately fun release in the mould of Fury seems more palatable.
Sepultura’s Chaos AD saw the band implementing far more overt tribal influence than before. Igor Cavalera’s drumming incorporated more groove, and the guitars followed suit; less thrashing, more chugging. Roots saw this taken to an extreme, taking the primal aspect of the native Brazilian groove, dialing it up to eleven, and forcing the guitars to follow suit. More than Chaos AD, Roots was a rhythmically driven record with Igor Cavalera’s drums taking the leading role. Ektomorf switch this around, and give big, crunchy guitars a leading role instead, like Max Cavalera did in Soulfly. What differentiates Ektomorf from nu-metal is the absence of the influence of American hip-hop present in that genre. Fury, like much of their discography, is influenced by the post-Chaos work of Max Cavalera primarily and secondarily by straightforward hardcore-tinged death metal like Jungle Rot and their ilk.
Ektomorf’s style, like any, has its various appeals. “AK-47” has a great chorus that’s built up expertly, and the quick half-time downshift hits like a ton of bricks because of it. The lyrics are pure Soulfly, meaning they’re stilted and simple but memorable and hugely entertaining. “Infernal Warfare” sounds like something from Soulfly run through the more thrash-based Dark Ages filter, which means it’s catchy, energetic, and tailor-made for being blared at ear splitting volume. “Bullet in Your Head” is bolstered by the tom-heavy drumming in its chorus, lending the simple chugging riff underneath a surplus of heft and energy. “Skin Them Alive” is the thrashiest, heaviest number here, sporting Zoltan Farkas’s best vocal performance on Fury and a collection of the record’s best riffs. With Sepultura being boring, it’s nice to hear post-Roots thrash in that mould played so well.
The drawbacks of Ektomorf’s sound manifest themselves when their riffs miss the mark. “Faith and Strength” is beefy wallpaper: inoffensive, loud, and not very memorable because of a lackluster riff or two. “Tears of Christ” sounds like early Soulfly outtakes run through molasses and disabused of memorable riffs and energy. “If You’re Willing to Die” is built of good parts that overstay their welcome, which interestingly is a problem that tends to plague Soulfly.
Ektomorf have stayed their course right down to production. Tue Madsen does his usual work here, which finds its ideal realization in Ektomorf: loud, clear, chunky, and modern. Fury is an easy record to like; Ektomorf know what they want to play, and they play it with aplomb and passion. Fury is not cerebral, complex, or technical. Fury is a distillation of metal’s base aggression into a form far more accessible than slam and far more musically proficient than early Venom. Fury is simply aggressive, cathartic fun with a few missteps that are quickly rectified by subsequent tracks. What prevents Ektomorf records from being great is that they have no distinct individually; part of Aggressor’s tracklist could be switched with Fury’s, and it would be tough to notice a difference. With that in mind, Ektomorf has their own sound overall, and haven’t modified it here. There’s likely no real debate on the best Ektomorf record, because they’re all serviceable and entertaining. Fury is no different, for better or worse.