Brutal death metal assailants, Atoll, are the latest signing to Unique Leader Records and one of the most obvious fits for the label since, uh, every other band they plucked from the fetid backwaters of America. Formed in 2014 and now on their fourth record, the Phoenix quintet give us an EP of six bone-rattling songs that will make your teeth fall out and your skin decay. This music is like the audio equivalent of experiencing the first symptoms of leprosy.
Suffocation and Cryptopsy can take the blame for the proliferation of slam metal, yet Atoll avoid the trap of monotony on this record and deliver an experience that will make you laugh as much as hold your nose. You need an open mind (read: sick sense of humour) to appreciate opener, ‘Cirrhosis for Dinner’. The murderous grind of crunchy riffs and bass guitar rumbles provide the perfect platform for vocalist, Wade Taylor, to see if he can achieve a guttural range of voice that knows no distinction between vowel and consonant or any kinds of phoneme. Yet you write him off at your peril as he expands into the full spectrum of extreme metal throat lacerations from pig squeals to hardcore screams. Take a step back from the bloodshed, and you’ll hear an exquisite guitar tone with precise drum patterns. You might even do an extra five miles on your Peloton bike after feeding this audio psychopathy through your ears. To quote an early Voivod album: “Rrröööaaarrr!”
‘Knifed in the Butt’ (er, WTF?) explores an intelligent calibration of differing guitar rhythms in the intro, but you can see why they draw comparisons with Cattle Decapitation. Gateway metal this is not! Wade Taylor’s performance on the mic is like one long convulsion with the objective of regurgitating one’s stomach contents after swallowing a gallon of cooking oil. (Florida cannibal, Austin Harrouf, did the same thing in 2019, and look what happened to him.) The vocals on ‘The Circumcisor’ will remind you of the agony you hear if you have the misfortune to walk past an animal slaughterhouse in the countryside. It’s harrowing, but you can concentrate on the exquisite hand-to-foot coordination of drummer, Andy Luffey, to distract you.
Atoll seldom rely on blast beats but more on the mechanised power of mid-tempo chugging to achieve their massacre of the senses. Indeed, ‘Hitchhiker’, proves that you need not enter the arms race of inhuman speed to be heavy. Fans of Decapitated will recognise a kinship with the guitar bludgeoning on display here, yet they launch into a detour of mid-90s Machine Head thrash and treat us to a full medley of guitar and bass soloing towards the end. The pig squeals, screams and shrieks might even pass over your head as you marvel at the musicianship. Perhaps only ‘Gathering Swarm’ lapses into a pastiche of what people expect when they read the words brutal death metal. It’s savage and unintelligible and proud of its anti-music transgressions. Atoll are happy to serve the listening tastes of less than 10,000 people on the planet.
You’ll still have reservations about the limitations of slam metal after listening to Prepuce, but an EP of less than thirty minutes might be the ideal running time for music of this nature. This is a record that dares to have fun and presses all the wrong buttons.
Release Date: 15/04/2022
Record Label: Unique Leader Records
Standout tracks: Cirrhosis for Dinner, Hitchhiker
Suggested Further Listening: Stillbirth – Strain of Gods EP (2021), Slob – Deepwoods Shack of Sodomy (2022), Bonecarver – Evil (2021)