Why brutal death metal and slam appeal to me hit me upon visiting a weird occult shop in Covington. Dead things in jars, all manner of non-human skulls, bloodied animals – these people were serious about this stuff. It’s not fun anymore when it hits that point. Writing gross-out lyrics is essentially writing fart and toilet jokes for people into horror films. It’s lowbrow, but it’s fun because of it. It’s also weirdly innocent, like a young guy talking in a debauched way about women despite hardly having the courage to approach one and start a conversation. Fans of slam and brutal death metal are in on the gross-out joke and there for the riffs. The weirdo with embalmed animals and Aleister Crowley books in his home isn’t in on the joke, because there’s no element of a joke there. In short, fans know this stuff is supposed to be fun like haunted houses are.
Meathook is releasing the wonderfully titled Crypts, Coffins, Corpses on the first day of 2019 presumably so the hungover masses can have their headaches exacerbated by some brutal death metal. The Meathook style is a fun one, reminding me of a cross between Cannibal Corpse’s Butchered at Birth and Pathology’s Legacy of the Ancients, albeit with less slams. The vocals are in the Tomb of the Mutilated vein, not veering into slam’s “wet” gutturals but flirting rather obviously with them. It’s produced in a way at once rough and professional, sounding organic but not amateurish. Eschewing over-production was a good call here, as this grimy yet eminently comprehensible character is exactly what these riffs need.
What makes Meathook’s latest work for me is that a cross between early Cannibal Corpse and Pathology is something I’d like to hear. “Placed Upon the Altar” has a standout drum performance that changes the character of the riffs as it goes. The intro is terse yet heavy, but when the verse kicks in the riff stays the same but the drums do that classic Suffocation/Cannibal Corpse hammer blast that changes the riff into a charging monstrosity. “Cauldron of Dead Bodies” alternates well between chugging and blasting, its riffs staying on the thicker strings in the lower frets, limiting Cannibal Corpse’s technical ambitions. It has an atmosphere not unlike the last Brutus record in this regard, despite not drawing much influence from them in riffs and song structure.
As is the case with many good bands, Meathook doesn’t do all that much to differentiate themselves from the pack. I’m not bothered, and am in fact quite happy, that Crypts, Coffins, Corpses adds nothing to the palate of brutal death metal, instead painting in its usual disgusting colors. Setting oneself apart from the pack can be done in thematic terms like Wormed, but the most important part about Wormed is that the riffs and songs are so good that we care about their weird sci-fi opus because of them, not the other way around. Put another way, Wormed would be just as good if they belched about more typical lyrical fare. Meathook makes good brutal death metal, and the difference between wanting to hear Crypts, Coffins, Corpses and safely ignoring it lies more in personal idiosyncrasies than anything else. If you want slamming in your brutal death, Meathook won’t satisfy you. If the idea of brutal death metal with old-style heavy riffs streamlined into concise and sharp songs with more growling than gurgling vocals appeals, Meathook is to your tastes.
In all, I like Meathook’s third full-length. It’s heavy, performed capably, and has some good riffs strewn about its half-hour runtime. What sticks with me is the quality interpretation of the brutal and less forwardly hooky Cannibal Corpse of Butchered at Birth, a sound I don’t hear that often. I don’t hear any standout tracks here, but I don’t hear any duds either. If you like one song, there’s no reason why a full record of it won’t do the trick for you too. Small details are overlooked too often because brutal death metal is such an obnoxious genre of music, but they matter. The snare, the pitch of the vocals, the guitar tone, the amount of tremolo picking…once you hit the threshold of competence and palatability, things get arbitrary. That’s partly why brutal death metal reviews are hard to read. Getting one’s brain scooped out with a melon baller means different things to different people. Meathook may mean that for some, but for me, they’re good.