Foetal Juice – Grotesque


Bury, Lancashire is the home of the black pudding and the birthplace of Victorian Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel. It’s also the homebase of Greater Manchester death metal favourites, Foetal Juice. As a band with some of the greatest song and EP titles in the history of music, the authors of Big Trouble in Little Vagina and Albert Grindstein are masters of the pun and the punishing riffs. Now on their third album, they chose a more sedate title for their record, but the music is anything but sluggish. That might also be the problem – you’ll finish the forty minutes of this affair in need of an ice bath.

Those of you that like your death metal fast, rough, and hard will have much to devour on album number three. This is extreme metal with no pit stops and no concern for your concentration levels. You either get it, or you fail the test and need to try harder next time. The velocity in the first ten seconds of opener, ‘Human Beach Master’, lets you know what to expect. Vertiginous tremolo guitars loop around your head under the rumble of violent double-timing beats and psychopathic vocal threats. It’s like Incantation with more gratuitous gutturals. Antagonistic bass guitar notes leap out at you in the middle-eight like apes shaking the bars of their cages. By contrast, the opening groove to ‘Mountain of Gore’ leaves you stroking your chin with your index finger. Foetal Juice waste no time repeating the song title as the chorus. This has all the makings of a future live favourite.

The live environment is where Foetal Juice excel the most. On record, they lose momentum rather than gain it. ‘Legion of the Grotesque’ starts with a fine piece of technical rhythm patterns and never loses its power in the eye of the blast beats. Here, vocalist, Derek Carley, sounds like a man trying to rip the skin off his face with his bare hands. But it wastes too much of its ammo on breaking past the four-minute threshold. Likewise, ‘Cunt of the Litter’ and ‘Torn Apart’ are standard death metal assaults that offer nothing of great interest. This is where traditional death metal suffers from tedium. It’s too fast and one-dimensional to leave behind traces of anything memorable. ‘Cemetery Leachate’ is like falling asleep in the sauna. It’s a good idea at first, but the fatigue crushes your impetus to do anything that requires energy.

Foetal Juice would be much better as a grindcore band with shorter songs. Tracks like ‘Two Bongs Don’t Make a Right’ and ‘Ghoul Amongst the Mouldering Dead’ remind you why this band matter in the English scene. They can shake you until your ears pop and your skull cracks. Ryan Whittaker’s plectrum in the latter tags the end of his riffs with a violent picking-action that might give him arthritis one day.

It’s not all predictable. Closing track, ‘Gruesome’, is a terrific way to end a faltering album with a delicate progression of dark minor chords in clean mode. Expressive bass guitar scales add to the new mysticism. You’d think this was a homage to The Chameleons rather than Carcass until Carley jumps on the microphone at 01:49 and the vicious guitars and drums come raining down like the forward firing guns of a rescue helicopter. “Get out of the fucking way,” is the message here. This spectacular outburst of grindcore is almost worth the effort of trudging through the mid sections of the album. You can play the air guitar and spin your head, or you can play the angry psychopath. There’s a real menace and purpose to this song beyond the need to play heavy and fast. 

Foetal Juice will continue to be kings of the live scene, but this record is too bloated and too eager to reach for the highest gear setting. The monotonous repetition it produces after track four will make your mind wander and your stomach rumble. Only at the end do we see the magic of Foetal Juice at their abominable best. And there’s no doubt that their best is as good as anyone’s when they use their murder weapons with more imagination.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 17/11/2023

Record Label: Gore House Productions

Standout tracks: Human Beach Master, Ghoul Amongst the Mouldering Dead, Gruesome

Suggested Further Listening: The Rotted – Get Dead or Die Trying (2008), Misery Index – Hiers to Thievery (2010), Deliberate Miscarriage – Mortuary Melodies (2022)