It was a sad day for the metal community when Deeds of Flesh frontman and CEO of Unique Leader Records, Erik Lindmark, passed away from sclerosis. As one of the innovators of the brutal death metal (BDM) sound and a facilitator for many bands, his influence on the scene cannot be understated. Along with Suffocation and Dying Fetus, Deeds of Flesh pioneered the slam metal movement that now reaches into every corner of the world and has millions of imitators.
Fortunately, Lindmark completed most of the latest Deeds of Flesh album leading up to his death, and the crème-de-le-crème are more than happy to put the finishing touches to his vision. The guest contributors are impressive – Corpsegrinder (Cannibal Corpse), Luc Lemay (Gorguts), John Gallagher (Dying Fetus), Frank Mullen (Suffocation). You can feel the level of goodwill on every track.
Like 2013’s Portals to Canaan, the band’s ninth album continues with a sci-fi theme rather than blood and gore, this time revolving around a colonising alien race that develop the technology to steal human souls. Opener, ‘Odyssey’, is like listening to an epic podcast of Independence Day with an eloquent English narrator reading a news report to unsettling background effects. Military drums, oboes and bass trombones add to the tension and darken the ghost-like strings permeating through the narrative. It’s like being blown out of the ejector seat of a jet plane when the tech death explosion arrives after the two-minute mark. The balance between blasting and neo-classical shredding is impressive. Fuck, this is heavy!
The first quarter of this record is as good as anything in the BDM genre. ‘Alyen Scourge’ subsists on blast beats, downstrokes and bass patterns of the highest calibre; ‘Ascension Vortex’ is thrashier and more militaristic with a face-smashing riff at the beginning and some of the finest drum work to grace 2020. Luc Lemay adds a welcome variation of aggressive growling on ‘Catacombs of the Monolith’ and John Gallagher’s contribution to ‘Nucleus’ is an album highlight. The latter explores a wealth of guitar fills at the end of every eighth bar but never fails to bludgeon. We must also acknowledge the technical bass work and excellent audio engineering that allows it to flourish in the mix.
The brutality is jaw-dropping, the pedigree indisputable. No doubt, fans of BDM will be drooling at the mouth, but the wider metal community might be less enamoured. Forty minutes of technical battery is hard to stomach despite the impressive use of all strings on the guitar neck and the emphasis on the neo-classical. Songs like ‘Terror’ and ‘Races Conjoined’ would be much better slimmed down to four minutes, but the complexity and precision of the musicianship take precedence over song-writing. Sometimes, a Deeds of Flesh composition can have hundreds of different guitar parts and numerous tempo resets. Normally, this would be welcome, but it leads to overload. Every so often, it seems too many death metal legends can spoil the ritual slaughter.
That’s not to say Nucleus disappears through a vortex of relentless blasting. Unlike their imitators, Deeds of Flesh understand the need for a sprinkling of groove and variation. ‘Ethereal Ancestors’ is like a faster version of Bolt Thrower. It’s less of a riff salad and more of a sustained attack. A couple more songs like this would enhance the experience and open them up to a wider audience beyond the slam metal scene.
It may be the last album from Deeds of Flesh, but their influence will continue to thrive after this record. A million bands are waiting to clone their sound as you read this review. Give it the courtesy of at least three listens before you make your mind up. RIP Erik Lindmark.
Release Date: 11/12/2020
Record Label: Unique Leader Records
Standout tracks: Alyen Scourge, Ascension Vortex, Nucleus
Suggested Further Listening: Cytotoxin – Nuklearth (2020), Dying Fetus – Reign Supreme (2012), Scordatura – Mass Failure (2020)