The kings of knuckle dragging neanderthal death metal are back. Yep, nobody ever accused Jungle Rot of being unpredictable or avant-garde. Quite the opposite, since 95′ these Wisconsin blokes have been churning out their primitive, simplistic, groove-based death metal with scant innovation or diversity. Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing considering their style was always a like-ably thick headed brand of American death with all the brutality but none of the frills. Albums like War Zone and Dead and Buried were enjoyable, fun efforts showcasing their simple sounds at their best. Now we get Kill on Command and its more of the same but with a polished production and a drift into deathcore territory, intentional or not I don’t know. Before you start smashing keyboards and such, this isn’t a full blown deathcore album but it has those trademark elements of the style embedded in the writing. How much of it? Well enough to annoy me but not enough to sink the album entirely. Its still that same ugly mix of Six Feet Under and old Cannibal Corpse and its fairly well written and at times, oddly catchy. However, some other issues crop up and together they drag this album down from good to less so.
Leading the campaign off with their best track “Their Finest Hour,” they waste no time throwing down the gauntlet. Featuring their standard issue thick, heavy guitar sound and mid-paced stomp, it has all the subtlety of a Sherman tank running over bags of fresh meat. There are some cool Cannibal Corpse-like guitar riffs throughout but by and large, their simplistic approach is closer to that of Six Feet Under. Its brutal in the old school way, not all about blast beats and technical speed, just crunching, grinding ugliness. Its VERY groove based and once they lock onto a riff they beat it like a dead horse. Over the course of the song they uncork several above average riffs and things work very well. The rest of Kill on Command is more of the same with some songs working way better than others. “Blood Ties” opens with a raucous and rousing riff and loads of energy but gets derailed by a lame gang-shout-along segment and a very core-ish breakdown that totally ruins the momentum for me. While numbers like “Rise and Revolt” and “Kill on Command” work well and are enjoyably heavy, old school death, too many of the songs pass by without grabbing the attention or fully engaging the listener and the sustained use of the shout-along backing vocals irks me every time.
The guitar work by Geoff Bub is pretty effective and he crafts some solid riffs throughout the album but the overall simplicity and sameyness starts to wear thin by the half way point. He has several quality solos though, especially during “No Mercy (From the Merciless).” The vocals by Dave Matrise are very generic but effective enough. The drumming of Jesse Beahler is entertaining and LOUD. The man beats the skins intensely and while he isn’t doing anything particularly innovative, his performance adds a very hefty backbone to the sound.
The production is a very big, modern one and though its punchy, its far too clean and pristine. I’ve beat this point to death but this style music is not benefited by clean, modern productions. When its as clean and pure as this one, the rawness and ugliness of the sound is gone and it leaves the music feeling too bland and watered down. Between the overly samey songs, the core-ish elements and the clean production, there’s a lot of issues with Kill on Command that holds it back from being as enjoyable as their past albums were.
I still like these guys but this album is a misstep IMHO. They crossed too far over into “modern” death metal and lost the rawness and heaviness along the way. There are still a few solid and enjoyable Jungle Rot tunes scattered through Kill on Command but overall this is a let down from their past war metal classics. If you like the modern style of death you may love this but Steel Druhm has reservations.