Stillbirth – Strain of Gods EP


Like Cannabis Corpse, Germany’s Stillbirth espouse the goods things in life through the medium of brutal death metal (BDM). It’s not the most obvious fit when you consider the band play the type of slam metal synonymous with Suffocation and Cryptopsy. But the depraved humour, veneration of weed and love of surfing make for a hilarious combination if you listen to the music with the lyrics in front of you. Stillbirth are the Municipal Waste of their genre.

Opener, ‘Ultimum Exitium’, starts like any other song on a BDM record. The drums crunch at 250 bpm, the guitars chug under the loose velocity of drop-tuned strings, and the vocals harvest lyrics like a stoner ploughing through a Spaghetti Carbonara with intense hunger pangs. But behind the pinch harmonics and grinding bass reverberations, you’ll find the story of a hedonistic beach party that descends into violence before everyone makes up at the end. “The fight is over/ It’s time to grab the booze/ Party hard all night long/ Until the sun goes up,” roars Lukas Swiaczny like a horny drug fiend ready to snort a shoreline of coke.

Not all the stories end on a positive note. ‘Surfers Paradise’ is about holding out for the wave that might kill you. It’s worth it for that once-in-a-lifetime adrenaline moment, and you’d expect the band to introduce a mood of exhilaration and colour into the music, but they stay in the hostile space of grinding death metal. Their fellow countrymen in Cytotoxin would be proud of the brutality, just as those that subscribe to Slam Worldwide will appreciate the grotesque butchery of ‘Double Fire, Double Fun’ and ‘Skinned by the Sun’. The former employs a memorable harmonic minor riff at the end but already feels like overkill in the first two minutes. One listen to the latter confirms a strain of the old school in the chunky downstrokes and contains the amusing stanza: “What’s better than chilling on the beach?/ A joint in one hand, a beer in the other/ The palm trees wave in a gentle breeze/ And a nice blonde girl lays between your legs”. Most death metal bands sing about slaughter, vengeance, and murderous fantasies; Stillbirth sing about stoners surviving a heat wave.

The band promote this EP as surf death metal, but that’s misleading when you remove the lyrics. Stillbirth missed a trick here by not splicing the amusing clichés of surf rock with the uncompromising brutality of death metal. Mr Bungle’s classic ‘Merry Go Bye’ is an example how you can incorporate two polarising styles into one demented whole. To be fair, the band realise this late on in the EP with the last two songs. ‘You Can’t Kill Us’ reaches for the Exodus/Gary Holt axemanship at the beginning and finishes on a bizarre hard rock interpretation of BDM. The title track launches through 01:40 seconds of an intense barrage before slipping into a beach hut jam of bluesy guitar and intricate bass meanderings. More of this would turn Strain of Gods from an enjoyable to an unforgettable experience.

Clearly, Stillbirth could be on to something unique if they broaden their musical horizons on their next record. After all, what could be more dangerous than hippies with an insatiable bloodlust?

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 19/11/2021

Record Label: Unique Leader Records

Standout tracks: Ultimum Exitium, You Can’t Kill Us

Suggested Further Listening: Cytotoxin – Nuklearth (2020), Suffocation – Blood Oath (2009), 200 Stab Wounds – Slave to the Scalpel (2021)