Visceral – The Tree of Venomous Fruit


Bruno J.S. Correia is a veteran of the death metal demo scene of the early 1990s as the vocalist and guitarist of Bowelrot, Disembowel and Sepulchral. The last few years of the twentieth century saw him exercise his craft in blackened death metal group, In the Umbra, but his output dwindled in this century, with Portuguese black metal project, Enlighten, being his main avenue of creativity of recent times. Now, for the first time in years, he has more time to devote to his music and three decades of experience to unleash in a new death metal entity. Gaerea vocalist, Guilherme Henriques, showed no hesitation in accepting the microphone for this record, and one wonders if his band might have produced something better, earlier this year, if they had Bruno in their ranks. The Tree of Venomous Fruit is a daring piece of experimental death metal with many faces – all of them menacing.

How do you stand out in the crowded field of death metal these days? Bands such as Blood Incantation, Fell Ruin, Ulcerate and Blindfolded and Led to the Woods are some of the modern notables that chart their own path in the genre, and Visceral are a group that can take their place among these artists on the evidence of their debut album. The abstract blackened death metal of ‘Toxic’ is like a high-treble death-grind eruption in outer space with traces of Nile. Think of Altarage with a thicker presence of guitars in the mix and the bass musings of tech death for its foundations. Bruno’s background in the international death metal scene of the early 1990s serves him well on ‘Worm Abysm’, where he uses his Morbid Angel influences and reinvents them with tremolo rhythms and low guttural vocals that sound like they emerged from a recording in a submarine. The guitar tone on this record is ugly and gleeful in its violent intent. ‘Fever Fruit’ is extreme metal with a capital E in the way it strains your eyeballs and manipulates the spasmic reactions of your fingers.

The obligatory blast beats break every rule at the mixing desk and provide your listening experience with a permanent tension that never abates. Bruno lets the competing instruments fight it out in a Darwinian struggle on ‘Plaguecraft’ and ‘Horror Flower’. You’ll hear the evil design of Cauldron Black Ram in the latter, yet you wonder if Imperial Triumphant would sound as obtuse as this if they abandoned their jazz origins. Every song here sounds like the late lunch of a predator creature after a long day of hunting human prey for sport. The slimy shapes and strangle-throat noises of ‘Breathe the Ashes’ would be enough to retain your attention, but the sophistication of the dual guitar approach is just as compelling. You know when the first pinch harmonics squeal on ‘The Sight of Nothing’ that this is no ordinary record.

If there’s one drawback, it’s the same one we encounter on most death metal records – endurance. This music is not something you can stream on a purposeful stroll through the supermarket aisles or on a train journey when your eyes flicker with tiredness and your mind wanders. But that’s your problem, and the onus is on you to invest the time in The Tree of Venomous Fruit. Calling the final product blackened death metal feels like a lazy choice. This album is a maze of towering rhythms and titanic tempos, yet the creator of this music is capricious in his approach and unwilling to go for the easy option of accelerating everything to the maximum. Listen to the nuances in between the bludgeoning speed and the hissing guitar tones. What is it that squirms through the amps? Is it the ritual of something with sinister intent or the triumph of self-mastery through perseverance?

The debut Visceral LP will inspire many questions, yet it does not claim to know the answers. When you look at the void, you see nothing but emptiness and an overwhelming feeling of inadequacy. Bruno J.S. Correia can be proud that he has produced the record he always wanted to make. It won’t change the world, but it might leave a small dent in the annals of death metal if enough people hear it.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 18/11/2022

Record Label: Raging Planet Records

Standout tracks: Toxin, Fever Fruit, The Sight of Nothing

Suggested Further Listening: Altarage – The Approaching Roar (2019), Morbid Angel – Formulas Fatal to the Flesh (1998), Cauldron Black Ram – Satalagmire (2014)