Undeath – Lesions of a Different Kind Review

Man, I was stoked to cover this record until this very moment. 2020 has been a tremendous year for death metal (if little else), and Undeath’s Lesions of a Different Kind is one of my most anticipated records in the genre. And much to my surprise, it took only a minimal amount of pleas and poisoning to secure reviewing rights from the established death metal experts on staff. But… now what? How does one even sell a record like this, which so brashly speaks for itself? Not to mention one which has enough hype surrounding it that almost anyone with a reasonable interest in death metal has long since had their eyes on it. I guess the only thing to do then is to talk about how much I personally like Lesions of a Different Kind. Considering that Undeath’s thesis of skull crushing death metal is executed to near perfection on this debut, I like it a whole fucking lot.

So yeah, Undeath is death metal. So thoroughly death metal, in fact, that the members might actually comprise the best traits of early 90’s death metal, transmogrified into human flesh. Peering past the bulk of Undeath’s countless influences, Lesions of a Different Kind mainly acts as a marriage between the vulgar technicality of Cannibal Corpse and the cavern crawls of Incantation. The concoction is undeniably addictive, with abrupt deep dives into low registers and erupting squalls of lead guitars lurking at every turn. Indeed, unpredictability is endemic to Undeath’s songwriting. Riffs contort in delightfully twisty ways, many of which pack enough depth that after probably a dozen spins I’m still unearthing nuance. Transitions between movements are disgustingly smooth, as well, with riff flesh naturally sloughing off between measures to reveal fresher and altogether more disgusting riffs lurking beneath. Considering that said guitar work is uncommonly catchy to boot, Lesions feels distinctly memorable.

Yet there is still potential for more here, in terms of future growth. It feels greedy to ask more from Undeath based on the sheer strength of this debut, but the signs are laid plain when sporadic bursts of amazement creep through Undeath’s foundational bedrock. This potential comes to a head in what might be the record’s best track, “Acidic Twilight Visions.” Playful snare blasts underscore its Bolt Thrower-ish grooves, which inevitably give way to progressive leads recalling last year’s Blood Incantation release, before further evolving into an unforgettably ignorant chainsaw riff. These transitions are utterly seamless and occur in the span of a minute, operating with an efficiency that most of Lesions of a Different Kind doesn’t quite match. And while most of the album is not indisputably amazing, I’d still only classify its weakest two cuts – the somewhat plodding “Shackles of Sanity” and the mildly repetitive “Kicked in the Protruding Guts1” – as merely “good.”

In keeping with many of this year’s best death metal releases, Lesions of a Different Kind boasts particularly strong production. I’m not a huge fan of the diminished volume and tone of the skins, but the guitars sound exactly as chunky and sloppy as they need to without sacrificing clarity, and the bass presence rumbles palpably. The bass lines could stand to be more adventurous, but it’s all about the riffs in the end, and guitarist Kyle Beam is a veritable wellspring. His work is derivative by nature of belonging to a genre that has seen decades of iteration, but the opening lead crawl that kicks off “Chained to a Reeking Rotting Body” possesses enough infectious exuberance to singlehandedly erase years of death metal fatigue. Alex Joseph and Matt Browning2 remain to take on vocal and drum duties, respectively, and while their respective gurgles and grooves aren’t necessarily revolutionary, they’re certainly skilled enough to stand shoulder to shoulder with almost any of death metal’s main attractions.

I guess the final question that remains then is: How exactly does one “un” death? Does the phrase imply the very antithesis of death, in direct defiance of death metal’s principles? Surely not, as Undeath’s approach is as unsubtle as they come. But there’s something undeniably special simmering beneath the surface, as I’ve consumed Lesions of a Different Kind with a voraciousness that I can’t credit to many other records of its type. If Undeath can tap into the special sauce that fuels the record’s finest moments, their sophomore outing could very well be legendary. In the meantime, buy Lesions of a Different Kind, as it still threatens top tier status on its own merits.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 128 kbps mp3
Label: Prosthetic Records Official | Bandcamp
Websites: undeath.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/fundeath
Releases Worldwide: October 23rd, 2020

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Which nevertheless sports one of the record’s heaviest sections in its back half. “I KICK AND I KICK AND I KIIIIIIIIIICK!”
  2. Who also is responsible for my favorite album art of the year. That is, the cover belonging to Undeath’s Lesions of a Different Kind. Fuck you, this art RULES.
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