There is currently a meme circulating the Internet, featuring an image that virtually everyone knows of and that is the cornerstone of all memes ‘manly’ in nature. Naturally, I am referencing the old-timey, bareknuckle boxer with the absurdly manly mustache, name of Mike Conley. This particular meme has spawned one that is near and dear to this writer: “Death Metal? You Mean Meditation Music?’ The reason this is so near and dear is that it is the full on truth; the heaviest of heavy metal is soothing to this listener: much as some are soothed by Mozart or Beethoven, I am relaxed when listening to anything and everything heavy metal.
Or so I thought. Apparently, there is a tipping point, wherein the music ceases to be soothing. Or, at least, it doesn’t have the same calming capabilities as something like an Opeth, Black Dahlia Murder, or even Aborted. And this tipping point has a name: Infant Annihilator. For the uninitiated, there are a couple of questions that may need to be answered prior to listening:
- Do you like your death metal so relentlessly heavy and in your face that at points it’s difficult to decide whether its creators are, in fact, human or not?
- Do the music videos have to make any sense, or remotely relate to the music and lyrics?
- How do you feel about 17 minute epics broken into 4 parts?
- What about those lasting a mere 11 seconds?
The reason it may be important to have these questions answered is that they are readily going to apply to everything this band does. There is almost no stopping with these guys.
First, let’s start off with percussion: Aaron Kitcher either extensively uses triggers to assist with that sound, or he is freaking bionic because, holy shit, the speed with which he plays is simply remarkable. No question it gets tiresome at points, when its just unrelenting, unapologetic, inhumanely paced beats, and it gets to the point where the drumming feels like a jackhammer is either doing the playing or is trying its damnedest to break out of your speakers and dig through your head. As such, this is probably the most difficult portion to first get used to as a death metal fan; and yet, the more the album is played, the more tolerable they become, to the point of actual enjoyment of the sound as a whole. Sure, they’re loud, they’re fast, and they don’t give a shit if you have a headache or not; believe it or not, were they to be any slower or less aggressive, the album just wouldn’t have cohesion (in I.A. terms).
Next, lets talk bass; a great many times when listening to a heavy metal band (obvious examples notwithstanding) the bass is what gets left out of the mix. And to be honest, for the vast majority of this album, among the cacophonic chaos, the bass is forgotten, and for good reason. You try finding the bass when Kitcher is trying to break the land speed record with his feet and Dickie Allen is shrieking like a prehistoric beast; it’s a damn miracle that the guitar can even be heard at points. Yet, there are a few moments where not only can the bass be heard, but it’s essentially the only thing that is truly heard. The most noticeable of these moments occur towards the tail end of Unholy Gravebirth, in the midst of the chaotic and never-ending Behold the Kingdom of the Wretched Undying and the tail end of Soil the Stillborn, where it’s amazing to know that Flea wasn’t a guest musician. More of a shame is that these moments weren’t more common; these brief, yet funky, Flea-esque bass lines would have proven a welcome relief in virtually every song, if for nothing else than to break up the noise and to genuinely enjoy its sound. No question that there is some intricate bass playing going on behind the scenes, but when there are only a few moments to cherish and revel in, the thought of ‘what could have been’ slowly begins creeping in.
Eddie Pickard, our lead guitarist, may very well have 2 callouses instead of hands, with the speed with which he is forced to play. From memorable chugging riffs on Soil the Stillborn, to the phenomenal and song-stealing tremolo riffage on Crucifilth, to the genre expectant, uncannily fast solos throughout, Pickard definitely does a fine job with his surrounding cast. And yet, apart from the previous two mentions, there is very little to truly recall on this album that is specific to Pickard. His playing is lightning quick and fits in perfectly with what the band plays. That’s all we need.
Which brings us to Dickie Allen, a man who probably should not have one shred of a vocal chord left after this release. I know these guys really don’t take what they do too seriously, it’s all very tongue in cheek, and Allen has a great sense of humor as seen in interviews; but damn, the range of sounds that come out of his pipes is astonishing and sometimes frightening. Over the course of this album, he sounds like Travis Ryan, Trevor Strnad, a pterodactyl, a violently rabid dog, an exorcism recipient, and a man who is forcefully trying to expel his innards from his body by way of his throat and vocal chords. And this is all in one song. And this isn’t even referencing his lightning quick ‘rapping’ at points throughout the album; I didn’t even know it was possible to sound that brutal and spit out lyrics at that speed simultaneously. Then again, Dickie Allen has shown that the human vocal chords can create and endure some incredibly punishing sounds; he is no question the highlight of this album, because despite the moments on the album where the music may sound very ‘same-y,’ Allen’s schizophrenic delivery is a treat on every song, including his hysterical high pitched yell/squeal on our final track.
There aren’t many things left to say about this; going into this album with the knowledge that these guys are having fun, and that their music videos are unapologetically…different, really did nothing to prepare me for what I heard, but it did let me enjoy the album that much more. Knowing (as much as one can) that this album was them having a good time and that their lyrics are obviously tongue in cheek allows me to just focus on what I hear, not necessarily a stigma that may be attached were this to have been hell to make or if any of the band members was legitimately dislikeable. That may not affect some people, and it’s not a deal breaker for this listener, but it’s nice to know that this irreverent, out of this world, unabashedly heavy album was made by a group of guys just having fun.