Welcome to the second installment of Brutal Bits & Pieces, a monthly miniseries culled directly from the extreme metal underground. The aim is to shed some light, and perhaps a little blood, on some of the grittiest, grimiest, and heaviest bands the metal realm has to offer.
Pennsylvania’s Burial in the Sky are a three-piece tech-death band with enough chops and ambition to reach third-degree black belt status in record time. Led by multi-instrumentalists James Tomedi and William Okronglis, the latter on vocals, the band recently released their full-length debut Persistence of Thought, an ambitious undertaking steadied by the beat-keeping of Decrepit Birth drummer Samus Paulicelli (Sam Stewart has since joined on skins).
Building on their 2015 EP Transcendence, Burial in the Sky implement moments of intricate melody through the use of keys, mandolin, and both acoustic and slide guitar, dipping lithely into the hippie-spirit-science subgenre and then hanging ten on the wave of pretension without truly wiping out. It’s a heck of an achievement, and the album, rife with slick leads, kinetic drumming, and some pummeling tech mayhem, impresses with both vision and musicianship.
Face of Oblivion – Cataclysmic Desolation (Comatose)
If that band and album name doesn’t scream modern death metal than nothing does. Face of Oblivion are a Minnesotan quintet with a hefty pedigree of technical brutal know-how, and their second full-length record Cataclysmic Desolation proffers exactly that with sundry deadly themes reminiscent of acts that range from more recent bands like Abnormality and Euphoric Defilement to barbaric mainstays like Severe Torture and Cannibal Corpse.
The record is chock full of thunderous chugs and dizzying bursts, and is uplifted by a graciously present bass tone that adds extra character to the swarming groove and unrelenting tempo. This pace, ultimately, is what likewise impairs much of the impact of Cataclysmic Desolation, creating a synonymy that is only occasionally quashed by standout tracks “Scaphism” and the closer “Shroud of Hypocrisy,” a song that points to the promised land for these very obviously talented skull-crushers. A bit too even, but heavy as hell and an admittedly fun time.
Grossty – Crocopter (Transcending Obscurity)
Indian gonzo grind-punks Grossty won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Underground in every sense of the word, this madcap quartet have built a demented fan base with wild live shows and a modest assemblage of splits. Their full-length debut, Crocopter, is an undeniably raucous experience, battering and offensive and volatile and, as its cover art suggests, pretty screwy.
While Grossty tout themselves as definitive grinders, the punk element reigns supreme, which, for those not sporting a Mohawk or down with that particular scene, may pose a few problems. The drumming is tireless, the riffs are racy and repetitive, and the vocals are delivered with schizophrenic abandon. Certainly a different take on the genre, but this absurdity is likely a flavor few will willingly ingest. Not bad?
Nekro Drunkz – Lavatory Carnage (Moribund)
Toilet humor galore and over-the-top gore dictate what you’ll find bobbing in Lavatory Carnage, the fourth and latest ode to the Porcelain God by Oregon duo Nekro Drunkz. Like their past efforts, the album is bursting with short-lived savagery thanks to its even balance of blasting grind and snarling yesteryear death metal.
A graciously heavy production lends a weight that makes Nekro Drunkz sound thicker than many of their sewer-pipe contemporaries, and the vocal assault, often sounding like straight vomiting, is definitely fitting for such a bottom-trawling outfit. Themes aside, this disgusting thrash-and-mash fest is a palpable ride down the drain. Hope your bidet works.
Scowl – Ruthless (Self)
After dropping an LP earlier in the year, Brooklyn gloom quartet Scowl are back for more with Ruthless, an EP with a decidedly atmospheric take on the grindcore underground. Three of the record’s nine tracks consist of noise effects and moments of spoken word, and, most surprisingly, not only add an unusual and eerie touch to the proceedings, but ultimately overshadow the band’s cesspool-treading hardcore.
When Scowl do play in the traditional sense, their namesake will doubtlessly form on the mouths of many a listener, whether for ‘metal face’ or out of frustration is to be determined. A tandem assault of low big-boy vocals and higher register little-man shrieks dominate the unruly and muddy blast-fest on display. It’s an odd experience, unhinged and authentic, that ought to appeal to fans of the more grating grind soundtrack.