As one begins to explore metal more and more deeply, one comes to the realization that there are certain “legendary” albums that seem to be appreciated more for being innovative than actually being good. I would argue, for example, that Napalm Death‘s Scum is a pretty mediocre album overall and was far surpassed by the material that followed it, even if it remains a critical piece of extreme metal’s history. This becomes a problem when bands create new releases similar in style to these “innovative but not very good” albums, resulting in records that are neither innovative nor good. But maybe Stomachal Corrosion could escape this fate. Maybe this Brazilian grindcore act’s self-titled album, which apparently comes after a 13-year hiatus, would show the group employing fresh riffs and inspired songwriting that would provide just the kick in the gut I need from life right now?
Sure—and maybe the last Machine Head album will be regarded as an underrated masterpiece in ten years.1 Corrosion play primitive music that calls back to the earliest days of crust and grindcore when the boundaries between those genres were less defined than they are today. As such this album sounds a lot like Extreme Noise Terror or early Napalm Death and could easily pass for something that was released in the mid-80s. This stuff is as simple as it comes: simple riffs, simple rhythms, and simple songwriting, all overlaid by vocals which consist almost entirely of a garbled, unintelligible roar. Songs rarely exceed two minutes and often have about the same number of riffs. The first proper track “A Crutch” is a prime example, spending its 63-second runtime bashing along and alternating between two basic ideas.
Simple music doesn’t have to be bad—but in this case, it is. The riffs here often feel bland and tired, an issue that’s only aggravated by the uninteresting songwriting. It’s telling that moments like the slow and slightly atmospheric ending of “Horror Show” or the demented punk stomp of “Two Centuries to You Die” feel far more notable than they should when on any other album they’d hardly be worth mentioning. It doesn’t help that Corrosion comes in at 22 tracks and 34 minutes in length, which would already be long for an album of this sort but is made all the more difficult to get through due to how dull and similar most of the material is. By the time “This Again” comes along late in the second half, I can only chuckle at how well the title sums up my own thoughts.
The production only aggravates things. I’ve literally heard demo tapes that sound better than this, and while I get the band was probably going for a “raw DIY” sound, I really just don’t enjoy how muffled and generally crappy it all sounds. Likewise, the vocalist’s garbled roar becomes quite monotonous, though tracks like “Choice a Label” and “Life of Lies” do mitigate this a little bit by having the roars trade-off with phlegmy screams. As the album continues, the band incorporates a few more ideas that mix things up. Tracks like “You Fool” trades out the basic bashing for tremolo riffing, “Alucinações Apoiando o Terror” features a longer runtime and a decent wonky melody at the end, and “Maníaco Inimigo” features a nice crunchy passage that almost makes me want to bang my head. Still, even these moments of variety don’t always work. Closer “I’m Arrogant” stands out for its doomy clean picking but is ultimately a pretty shrugworthy sendoff, which I suppose is at least consistent with everything else here.
I feel bad being so hard on Corrosion. The album does nothing offensive and is clearly happy to revel in the early days of grindcore and crust. Still, the riffs are simple and not compelling, the songs are as bland as they come, and even the attempts at variety do little to keep my interest. I can appreciate Stomachal Corrosion‘s adherence to old school values and a DIY aesthetic. But, no matter how many listens I give, I just can’t appreciate their music.2
- I just spit up my coffee. – Dr. (Ruined Keyboard) Grier ↩
- As a weird aside, at least one of the riffs here sounded almost identical to one from Necrosexual‘s debut, which I can’t imagine was intentional but nonetheless caused me to have a Necrosexual song playing in my head all week. This was very confusing to me until I made the connection. Rest assured this did not factor into the above score. ↩