Rio de Janeiro by way of New Orleans musicians Incubus were an integral piece of the greater death metal uprising that took place in the late 80’s southern United States as competitive Tampa area thrashers found greater extremism in ‘brutal’ thrash variations. Their ‘Supernatural Death’ (1987) demo still holds up to this day as a prime example of the harmonious potential that existed between the increasing complexity of thrash in the second half of the decade (Dark Angel, Kreator) and the concurrent rise of nascent extreme metal aesthetics (Death, Insanity). Without question Frances Howard is one of the most overlooked rhythm guitarists of that era; No doubt the death/thrash sensibilities expressed on ‘Serpent Temptation’ (1988) and ‘Beyond the Unknown’ (1990) persist today as two of the best sets of brutal thrash metal recordings ever made. That legacy has persisted quietly in the decades since as the band would reform as Opprobrium with the Howard brothers still the core duo in 1999. They’ve since released an album roughly once every ten years and ‘The Fallen Entities’ marks the third record under their belt and the first to attempt a deeper throwback to their sound on those first two full-lengths. It is a masterful return and a new lesson in ‘old school’ death/thrash riffing that drips with the power of 80’s death metal style from start to finish.
‘Discerning Forces’ (2000) was a fantastic record when it was released but its modern (for the time) groove-heavy approach to death metal riffing fell upon many deaf ears as brutality reigned supreme in both Brazil and the United States death metal underground at the time. I knew of Incubus (from ‘Beneath the Remains’ liner notes) but wouldn’t finally pull the trigger on their music until I’d heard that first Opprobrium record. Looking back it was a big moment to see that band return with such a heavy death metal sound between the big Harris Johns production and the fine the Kristian Wåhlin cover art yet, there wasn’t a ton of fanfare from what I remember. In fact that is one of the reasons why their self-produced ‘Mandatory Evac’ (2008) record completely fell under my radar for a few years after release despite its increased thrash metal style. What excites me as a fan of this band over the last twenty years is primarily that ‘sweet spot’, a certain balance of death and thrash metal that Opprobrium finds again on this record; It feels like Frances‘ has really dug into thirty years worth of experience and used that wisdom and reflection to select his strongest riff ideas for ‘The Fallen Entities’. The result is a record that sounds much like classic Incubus did, a cross between the angular slices of Kreator‘s ‘Extreme Aggression’ and the pummeling rhythmic density of Death‘s ‘Human’ (see: “Creations that Affect”).
Much of ‘The Fallen Entities’ improves upon the general forms of ‘Mandatory Evac’ while Frances‘ vocals take a tone closer to Schuldiner’s pre-1993 affect and the thrash metal side of his compositions expresses with great value. What stands out most after several listens is Moyses‘ drumming; His performance is generally more technical, or at least comes with greater finesse than it has on the last two records from the two brothers. I suppose what I’d suggest is that this third full-length beyond Opprobrium‘s inception is their finest for my tastes largely because I am such a huge fan of ‘Beyond the Unknown’. The duo are most on fire when the compositions are at their most dynamic (“Wicked Mysterious Events”, “Dark Days, Dark Times”, and the title track), unfortunately most of the show-stoppers are loaded heavily towards the first half of the albums tracklist whereas Side B only really pulled me out of my head for “In Danger” on subsequent listens. Even without the important history of the band and their reputation I’d still be inclined to grab ‘The Fallen Entities’ because it is a solid death/thrash record and my recommendations really does boil down to that. Highly recommended. For preview I’d suggest starting with any of the first three tracks on the album, my personal favorite riffs (and blasts!) came from “Wicked Mysterious Events” but the thrash break in the middle of “Creations That Affect” should be a real hook for any death/thrash fan.
Penance for feigned paradise. 4.0/5.0
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