The ‘slam’ sub-genre of death metal is not to everyone’s liking, and that’s often with good reason. All those chugging guitar crunches and plastic double-kick rhythms would be nothing without the engineering of Pro-Tools. Likewise, the songs grow sterile and formulaic after ten minutes of relentless bludgeoning. Then there’s the oxymoronic problem of the death metal compositions needing more life in them. Fortunately, 200 Stab Wounds avoid all these clichés and deliver a monstrous debut album straight from Ohio. Slave to the Scalpel is a grotesque but enjoyable affair once you let the blood seep into your cavities.
Unlike their contemporaries in the brutal death metal scene, 200 Stab Wounds show an appreciation for the primacy of the chunky guitar riff without squandering the effect in a cacophony of monotonous repetition. Opener, ‘Skin Milk’, is as fiendish as the title suggests, never falling into the low-tuning trap or overindulging in lightning-fast blast beats. This is Obituary with the scything precision of Decapitated’s iconic rhythms. You might even ponder if they had Machine Head’s Burn My Eyes on the stereo during the writing process. ‘Tow Rope Around the Throat’ and ‘Itty Bitty Pieces’ both start like Robb Flynn and Logan Mader building in the opening riff to ‘None but My Own’. Think of a slow grinding palm-mute and your wildest urge to grunt “ugh” into the microphone when the drums lock in on the beat. Fuck, yes!
The twenty-six minutes duration is just about right for music as gory as this. But that’s not to say the band have no fun during this time. Like Canadian death metal trio, VHS, 200 Stab Wounds have a fascination with low-budget horror films from the 1980s. The intro to ‘Phallic Filth’ appears to sample the chilling sound effects and cringe-worthy film score from Trolls before launching into a mid-tempo grind of pulsating guitar chugs and drooling caveman vocals. Standout track, ‘Drilling Your Head’, is exactly how you’d expect a pornogrind band to sound if they ditched the necrophilia in favour of blood lust and doubled down on their instruments to get the most out of their technical capabilities. The riffs and rhythm section are simply too good on closing track, ‘Expirated Spatter’, for the music to slip into a stagnant mire of tuneless brutality. And then we have the lyrical preoccupation with cannibalism and the unedifying spectacle of eating a stew filled with the curdled semen of a raw penis. Er… what the fuck?
200 Stab Wounds are not reinventing the veal with Slave to the Scalpel, but they use the filthiest of grooves and combine them with the precision of mechanised slaughterhouse tools. Like abattoir site managers opening their doors to a special kind of customer, you can never be sure if they’re operating their stun guns on more than just animals.
Release Date: 12/11/2021
Record Label: Maggot Stomp Records
Standout tracks: Skin Milk, Phallic Filth, Drilling Your Head
Suggested Further Listening: Sanguisugabogg – Tortured Whole (2021), Luna in Sanguinem – Global Bloodbath EP (2020), Cannibal Corpse – Unimagined Violence (2021)