This Month In Metal: Decrepit Birth, Aeon, Cardiac Arrest

Hail! This being my first column for ALARM Press, I thought I’d dip into some overlooked summer releases to get the blood flowing.

Decrepit Birth: Polarity (Nuclear Blast)

First up is the third album from California’s Decrepit Birth, Polarity. This album is a great example of the band’s name and the album’s title bringing to mind two completely different things. “Decrepit birth” sounds like a schlock-y gore-grind band, while “polarity” suggests spaced-out, progressive rock. Truth be told, it’s a bit of both.

Like Necrophagist before it, Decrepit Birth sticks to the old-school, growled, and slightly raspy styles of vocals in addition to its very complex, other-worldly music. This tactic is employed as a foundation: it doesn’t matter what Bill Robinson is growling about; it just matters that he does it consistently and with enough force to keep the album grounded throughout. With that being said, Robinson chooses his phrasing and placement of vocals well, allowing plenty of time for the rest of the band to do its thing, which really begins a minute and a half into Polarity, when there’s a Spanish-influenced guitar break out of nowhere.

Decrepit Birth is, without question, a band that prides itself on musicianship. The intricacy of its riffs brings to mind my fifth-grade teacher’s take on Gone With the Wind when she showed it to our class: “I notice something new every time.” Rhythm shifts, brief solo passages, and transitions between sections of the songs command awe as well as neck-snapping headbanging.

One interesting thing about Polarity, guitar-wise, is Decrepit Birth’s year-round-school take on soloing: rather than interject long-winded solos, Dan Eggers and founding member Matt Sotelo fire off short, melodic bursts throughout the album, with melody peeking out from behind the dense song structures like the sun from behind clouds.

Drummer KC Howard rides the guitar and bass insanity with style, grace, and frequent double-kick-drum action, which mirrors the vocals as a subtle, almost-constant presence. When the bass drums mimic the guitars or bass during specific rhythms instead of just chugging along, it’s very noticeable.

Toss in a perfect mix where every riff is clear as day and one of Dan Seagrave’s classic weird-landscape paintings for cover art, and Polarity is going to make a lot of year-end lists.

Decrepit Birth: “Solar Impulse”
[audio:|titles=Decrepit Birth – “Solar Impulse”]

Aeon: Path of Fire (Metal Blade)

Another subtly complex- – but much more brutal album — was released back in May to the delight of…not many.  Aeon‘s Path of Fire has flown below the radar, most likely due to its lack of any commercial viability whatsoever outside of death-metal circles, which is not to say that the album isn’t completely brilliant.

It would be easy to dismiss Aeon’s “Satanic” subject matter as silliness penned by uncreative goons, but it’s obvious that Aeon is in on the joke (the hidden bluegrass version of “God Gives Head In Heaven” on the band’s 2005 debut, Bleeding the False, confirms this suspicion).  But once you dig deeper, it also becomes obvious that the band mostly uses its blatantly evil platform to preach the importance of making your own decisions and living freely — two basic ideas espoused by the Church of Satan, ironically. Chances are that the band sees — like many of its Swedish metal peers — organized religion as really fucked up, and this is an outlet for its frustration, be it completely truthful or not.

Musically, Aeon is ’90s Florida death metal (Deicide, Malevolent Creation, Morbid Angel, etc.) re-booted in the 21st Century. Its vocals are classic death metal: low, guttural vocals for the majority of the lyrics paired with high-pitched, screeched vocals for accents on the choruses or important lines during the verses.

There are a lot of fast and unassuming accents and bridges scattered amongst the songs on Path of Fire. The more obvious ones are highlighted by drummer Nils Fjellstrom, but the rest are hiding in the fast parts when the blast beats serve as a blank canvas for the guitars to serve up some warped, mind-bending riffs that sometimes operate at a much slower tempo than the drums they’re on top of.

Aeon: “Abomination to God”
[audio:|titles=Aeon – “Abomination to God”]

Cardiac Arrest: Haven for the Insane (Ibex Moon)

Finally, I’d like to touch on a killer local release from here in Chicago. Haven for the Insane is the newest album from sloppy, primitive death-metal freaks Cardiac Arrest. These guys are on the horror-movie tip alongside bands like Autopsy or also-classic and also-Illinois-based Impetigo, so if that, bass drums that sound like they were ripped from Macabre‘s Gloom, and artwork from Putrid are appealing to you as a consumer, check it out.

[audio:|titles=Cardiac Arrest – “Haunted Remnants”]

First Time On Vinyl

Since its inception in the late ’80s, UK-based Earache Records has released a lot of vinyl. Its last vinyl-sales campaign was in 2002 and saw reissues of classic Earache titles like Slaughter of the Soul, Left Hand Path, and Altars of Madness. Eight years later, the label has begun a First Time On Vinyl series and has started to reissue classic albums that didn’t make the cut in 2002.

The First Time series has been strong thus far, with beautiful double-LP versions of Morbid Angel’s Formulas Fatal to the Flesh (its only album that had yet to see the day on a format other than CD); Decapitated‘s debut, Winds of Creation (as well as its 2006 monster, Organic Hallucinosis); and Cult of Luna‘s 2001, self-titled album.

Decapitated: “Post Organic”
Decapitated: \”Post Organic\”

Notable Vinyl Reissues

Earache also recently released stunning double-LP versions of the first two Brutal Truth albums, Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses and Need to Control. The Extreme Conditions… reissue has the album proper on the first record and tracks from the Perpetual Conversion and Ill Neglect EPs on the second.

Need to Control was first issued as a single LP or 5-, 6-, 7-, 8-, and 9-inch vinyl box set, which had five bonus tracks, including Celtic Frost and Pink Floyd covers. Like Extreme Conditions, Need to Control has the album on one record and the bonus tracks on the second.

Brutal Truth: “I See Red”
[audio:|titles=Brutal Truth – “I See Red”]

News & Notes

Spain’s most prolific gore punks, Haemorrhage, have started demos for a 2011 full-length on Relapse; Illinois/Wisconsin old-schoolers Jungle Rot are touring until late August behind their newest, What Horrors Await; former Dark Angel, Strapping Young Lad and Death drummer (currently playing for Dethklok and Fear Factory) Gene Hoglan finally released his DVD; Chicago riff-worshippers Geffika have lined up a few California dates; it sounds like Rochester, NY grinders Spoonful of Vicodin have called it quits — they will be missed; Atlanta’s Primate is wrapping up its debut recording; the re-formed Buzzov*en will be briefly hitting the road in September.

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