*** Go to our YouTube channel in the link below to see the video review of this record in episode #48 of the SBR Album of the Week.
Baltimore death metal favourites, Dying Fetus, are the wrong band to fuck with. Indeed, they called their last studio outing, Wrong One to Fuck With, in 2017. That produced a title-track that the YouTube algorithms endorsed with zeal. You couldn’t avoid the song if you watched any extreme metal video for your favourite bands back in 2018-19. Like many of the brutal death metal (BDM) genre, Dying Fetus started on a diet of Suffocation and Deicide, but they outgrew these origins long ago and now have a distinctive guitar sound and receive recognition for being one of the tightest rhythmic units in the scene. It’s no exaggeration to say that their ninth LP is a bellwether for the state of the genre, and Dying Fetus prove that six years away did not harm them one bit.
Think of all the monotonous elements about the BDM/slam genre and rid them from your mind. Dying Fetus have as many colossal riffs in their repertoire as a classic Prong record. Opener, ‘Enlighten Through Agony’, starts with crunchy down-picking and rapid slide movements, like Max Cavalera plotting the next Soulfly album from his tour bus. It takes John Gallagher only thirty seconds to dig his plectrum into the strings in the alternate-chugging rhythms we love so much as metalheads. There is nothing overproduced about the drums behind him. Trey Williams tunes his snare high and captures his kit in high treble frequencies, like the classic death metal albums of the late 1990s. What you hear on this record is what you’ll hear live. Detuned bass vibrations round out the audio attack like a humming fuel tank.
Of course, those sceptical of BDM often site the vocals as the main drawback to the music. Here, Gallagher and bassist, Sean Beasley, share the microphone duties and add their own phlegmatic spin to the lyrics. ‘Compulsion for Cruelty’ mixes neo-classical guitar fills with slamming palm-muted stabs and inserts sudden bursts of speed into the equation when you least expect a tempo uplift. ‘Feast of Ashes’ is the one song that cooks up a riff soup for your taste buds – you’d be wrong to skip it. Give it a couple of spins and you’ll hear the influence of Sepultura’s Chaos A.D. in the guitar rhythms, especially the weight of the chunky grooves. Your instinct is to stand tall and stick out your chest in response to the muscular carvings of ‘When the Trend Ends’. Listen to the invigorating leap into a head-banging frenzy at 00:52 – where did that come from? Is there anything more menacing than the guttural vocals locked into an onomatopoeic union with the crunch of the guitar downstrokes? Gallagher and Beasley moisten their gullets like the famous Predator creatures of the Hollywood franchise. You might even say in awe, “This is one ugly motherfucker of a song,” when absorbing the impact of ‘Hero’s Grave’, which the old fanbase will enjoy as a reminder of the band’s early experimentation with grindcore.
Like Ingested, the trio in Dying Fetus are aware that BDM has its limitations. The absurd arms race built upon triggered drums and inhumane vocal dynamics continues apace on labels like Unique Leader Records and Century Media. But John Gallagher and crew know better than to march into oblivion. ‘Undulating Carnage’ employs the blast beats and rapid tremolo patterns, but these linger with the same eerie suspicion as Bernard Herrmann’s Psycho film score from 1960 (not the shower scene!). Closing track, ‘Subterfuge’, thrives on open-string pull-offs and fast manipulations of the plectrum before smashing you over the head with a percussive beatdown riff. This is how you make BDM interesting for the listener. Lubricated voices rasp like chemical-scarred survivors of an apocalypse. Double-kick drums thunder in the background with little or no fuss. Guitar fills rip through the higher reaches of the fretboard like the spirit of Eddie Van Halen resurrected by Trey Azagthoth of Morbid Angel.
Make Them Beg for Death knows how much you can take. You’re not begging for it to stop at thirty-seven minutes, but there’s no need to plea for more. The timing is just right as is the guitar tone and overall mix of the instruments. Let’s be clear – album number nine is a triumph for Dying Fetus and for the brutal death metal genre from which they emerged years ago.
Release Date: 08/09/2023
Record Label: Relapse Records
Standout tracks: Compulsion for Cruelty, Feast of Ashes, When the Trend Ends
Suggested Further Listening: Ingested – Where Only Gods May Tread (2020), Aborted – Maniacult (2021), Vaulted – Left in Despair (2021)