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.
Cognitive – Deformity (Unique Leader)
Jobbstown, New Jersey’s Cognitive no doubt learned a few things about themselves in the wake of their pummeling 2014 self-titled debut. For their sophomore effort Deformity, the quintet have returned with two fresh new faces and a tighter, even more ferocious sound, an impressive accomplishment given the high caliber of brutal tech-death offered on their initial release.
A modern showcase of meaty, chugging riffs, as savage as they are intricate, with hammering octopod drumming, a tandem of ursine and demonic vocals, and an affinity for atonal leads and energetic staccato rhythms, Cognitive embrace the weird and deliver some seriously rad and groovy death metal. If Decapitated, Aborted, Benighted, and, say, Pathology, get your blood flowing, then by all means, check out Cognitive. “Haunted Justice” is a great place to start.
Deranged – Struck By a Murderous Siege (Agonia)
For nearly 25 years now, Sweden’s Deranged have carved up the sacrificial masses with their brand of blast-heavy brutal death, quelling gore-starved metalheads alongside colleagues Vomitory, Cannibal Corpse, and Deeds of Flesh with a wicked and blood-splattered approach. Led by lone remaining founding member Rikard Wermén, the quartet have returned with their ninth full-length release in Struck By a Murderous Siege, a distinctly slower and more grooved-over version of their standard killing spree.
With absolutely ripping cover art—kudos Mike Hrubovcak—the latest effort from Deranged is a chunky and corporeal pulse of early ‘90s mid-paced barbarity. However, in spite of copious groove, a clutch of tidy leads, wholly appropriate gutturals, there looms a lasting sense that, in spite of a head-banger like “Hello from the Gutters,” these Swedish titans have all but relinquished their once sturdy footing atop death’s ever-crowding range. Some killer riffs can be found, but you won’t likely be warily looking over your shoulder during Struck by a Murderous Siege.
Keitzer – Ascension (F.D.A. Rekotz)
Saying that German death-grinders Keitzer sound like Maryland death-grinders Misery Index is like saying thunder sounds like lake-ice cleaving apart. Vicious riffing, machine-gun drums, and ferociously intelligible vocals constitute much of what both bands do so well. While preferring one over the other remains entirely subjective, it’s safe to say that while Misery Index head towards slightly more swimmable waters, Keitzer remain out at sea, treading oh so deadly among the sharks and barracuda.
Their sixth full-length album is Ascension, and while it doesn’t quite reach the intimidating heights of its predecessor, The Last Defence, it remains a wholly aggressive and uncompromising onslaught of strike-first, death-suffused grind. Synonymy and unusually placed strings on a bruising track like “Conquistador” are a couple caveats, but fans of the subgenre who aren’t familiar with Keitzer would be wise to inquire.
Polyptych – Defying the Metastasis (Blood Harvest)
While the album title of Polyptych’s third full-length release, Defying the Metastasis, supports the process of halting the migration or advancement of tumor-causing carcinogens, it appears that stopping the continued growth of this Chicago-based quartet indeed remains quite futile.
The music here is thoughtfully crafted, with swirling blackened skies adding a markedly foreboding atmosphere to the often kaleidoscopic progressive death metal on hand. Conceptualized against a futuristic totalitarian society, the lyrics offer a narrative that is as bleak as it is frustratingly current, a David vs. Goliath tale for extreme modern times. Musically, Polyptych aim for something vast, and, more often than not, nail it thanks to a dense offering of odd sounds and structures stitched together with able doses of melody, mystery, and sonic force.
Six-Score – Lebensräume (Wooaaargh)
You hate money? You hate aristocracy? You hate how you struggle to get by while silver spoons take the day off and go parasailing? Austrian quartet Six-Score—who would never neglect the subjugated hyphen—are right there with you, and they’re poised to unleash their rapid-fire 18-track second full-length release Lebensräume to balance out this whole have-and-have-not nonsense with oodles of blistering grindcore.
Adherents to pioneers like Assück, Napalm Death, and Nasum ought to find much to shake their fists to here, with all the youthful frustration spilling out in a gravelly choir of German and English. Six-Score are not about rewriting the book of grind, but rather adding a fresh new chapter, one stoked with incendiary riffs and a flammable energy.