Flayed Disciple – A Hell in Living Flesh EP


Flayed Disciple last made our ears bleed with their self-titled EP in 2014 and then went back to their Somerset homes to perfect a pioneering new cider for the world export market. While the latter may not be true, the fact they’ve been quiet for nearly a decade bothered few people outside a small pocket of the extreme metal underground. But things will change with the release of their new EP. This might be the heaviest thrash metal ever produced in England for public consumption. A Hell in Living Flesh gives you the juicy prospect of a razor-sharp Fear Factory interpreting modern thrash with the speed of Slayer and the might of Hatebreed. It’s a fine line between whiplash and decapitation.

To say all five members are on their game here is an understatement. You can also understand why it took them so long to release their new EP. Songs of this calibre and crunch do not appear in a year of monthly writing sessions and fortnightly rehearsals. Opener, ‘I Am Leviathan’, takes the mechanistic steamroller tempos of thrash to new levels with the tightest production and chunkiest riffing since Prong’s glory days of the mid-1990s. Fans of the old Flayed Disciple material might wonder what happened to the grisly death-metal vocals of Tim Whyte. This is because new vocalist, Merv Hembrough, is now on the microphone and more in tune with the violence of metallic hardcore. His pipes are far more aggressive than the tonsil-destroying growls of 2012’s Death Hammer LP.

You’ll end up breathing through your nose once the band power through the death-thrash artillery barrage of ‘Warmaster’, whose lyrics read like a murderous fantasy beyond the elation of sexual gratification. In case you wondered what this one is about, imagine the devastation caused by those WWI soldiers lucky enough to have the comfort of a pill box and a Maxim machine gun to hand as the helpless enemy infantry attempted to cross no man’s land. “Unleashing awesome power/ Piling up the bodies, no time to dig the graves/ Revealing men as cowards/ Racking up the volleys, the shell shock never ending,” roars Hembrough, with superhuman might. Drummer, Phil Tolfree, delivers the trauma here with an exacting performance behind the kit. This band belong on the same stage as Extinction A.D. and Misfire.

Flayed Disciple are fond of breaking records on this EP. ‘Arch Commander (1985)’ must be the longest sustained piece of thrash brutality in the annals of metal. Can you think of a song that annihilates the senses for seven minutes and twenty-five seconds where the breakdown at 06:20 seconds is the sole moment of respite? One must applaud the musicianship, stamina, and rhythmic precision of this composition. Imagine a tank grinding a human skull to dust with three prisoners tangled up in the tracks. The guitar playthrough on YouTube will blow your mind.

Though as close to flawless as you’ll get for an EP, the only thing you might question is whether they could have expanded this to a full-length album with a couple of two-minute interludes and an additional instrumental. The twenty-eight minutes of golden thrash on A Hell in Living Flesh feel more like an album than a stop-gap release for a more important record. Those of you with a commanding knowledge of heavy metal history will appreciate the lyrical references to famous song titles from the big four of thrash along with Sepultura, Obituary, Napalm Death, Judas Priest and even Manowar on the track that bares the group’s name. ‘Flayed Disciple’ will destroy your sense of balance like Decapitated at their most proficient.

You know by the end of ‘The Dark Other’ that your perspective of modern thrash needs to change. Flayed Disciple demonstrate that the genre can be the heaviest in the extreme metal canon when executed to this standard. This is a colossal comeback record from a band that deserve to be at the summit of the English underground scene.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 22/04/2022

Record Label: Bethlam Records

Standout tracks: I Am Leviathan, Flayed Disciple

Suggested Further Listening: Extinction A.D. – Culture of Violence (2022), Cannibal Corpse – Violence Unimagined (2021), Misfire – Sympathy for the Ignorant (2022)