Wisconsin death metal veterans, Jungle Rot, are one of those bands that make you question why so many overlook them. Consistency is synonymous with the group, and their gravitation towards thrash metal over the last few records distinguishes them as one of the finest hybrid artists in extreme metal. You can still hear Obituary and Vader in their sound, but they have no interest in the speed and technicality that continue to dominate death metal. Now on their eleventh album and first for Unique Leader Records, could this be the time for Jungle Rot to enjoy unanimous applause for their services to metal, or might it be yet another byword for reliability?
One thing you can say about the American quartet is that they don’t bother with the cryptic lyrics of technical death metal or the gratuitous imagery of the genre’s more blood-thirsty purveyors. The opening title track is clear that the future is choosing which side you’re on in the culture wars and answering the call to defend the belief system you know and love. “Now the shit has hit the fan/ And you are forced to take a side/ Don’t sacrifice your humility/ Never submit to fucking tyranny,” rasps Dave Matrise. You might expect lyrics like these to feel a responsibility towards an anthemic stadium metal chant, but Jungle Rot’s strength is the way they use Bolt Thrower’s tremolo riffing with the impenetrable steel of a Machine Head thrash attack. Follow up, ‘Beyond the Grave’ is just as clear in its purpose. Here, the band take the riffs of the Bay Area and pitch them in the lower tunings of the early 2000s with a hint of hardcore in the vocal aggression.
It’s inevitable that Dave Matrise remains the heart and head of the band as the sole surviving founder member. He strains his raspy voice with an impressive lucidity on ‘Genocidal Imperium’ and delivers the crossover menace with a liberal dose of chunky guitar rhythms. Often, this means no-nonsense testosterone metal for the treadmill, like in the surprise nod to Metallica’s Black album on ‘Asymmetric Warfare’ and the welcome fusion of Obituary and Soulfly on ‘Maggot Infested’. The grooves are not afraid to wave their truncheons when the tempo demands it on the excellent, ‘Death Squad’, yet the lack of blast beats and vein-splitting rage give you more breathing room. Of course, this should be a weakness, but Jungle Rot turn this into an opportunity for you to dig deeper into their music and discover darker pastures. They make it even easier on the misanthropic celebration of ‘Population Suicide’, with its gothic keyboard choirs adding another layer of menace to the morbid thrash posturing.
An album clocking in at thirty-three minutes should have no trouble editing out the fillers, but Jungle Rot are in a comfortable stride on the likes of ‘Vengeance & Bloodlust’ and ‘Haunting Future’. These two songs might work better live, but here they seem subdued and formulaic. This flaw forces you to ask the question – is A Call to Arms a safe album? The answer is a cautious no, rather than emphatic one.
Jungle Rot do little to alienate or disappoint you on album number eleven. You could even argue that nobody executes their tripartite assault of thrash, groove and death metal with as much aplomb. Why fix something when it’s not broken?
Release Date: 13/05/2022
Record Label: Unique Leader Records
Standout tracks: A Call to Arms, Death Squad, Population Suicide
Suggested Further Listening: Bolt Thrower – Honour – Valour – Pride (2001), Ektomorf – Reborn (2021), Extinction A.D. – Culture of Violence (2022)