The most rampant and eagerly tongued bit of trivia that the “but actually…” crowd on the internet would wave in your face today is that yes, Dallas, Texas based brutal death metal band Devourment didn’t ‘invent’ slamming brutal death metal (aka “slam”) but they did popularize the Long Island, New York spawned sound (see: Afterbirth, Mangled, Internal Bleeding) by famously capitalizing on its mosh-heavy side. They were most definitely in the right place at the right time in an era where the pit became a huge focus for hardcore dancing death metal fans worldwide. Brutal death was bigger than you remember in its ‘second wave’ and especially as the late 90’s/early 2000’s saw the availability of cheaper production software for home studios. This paired with nascent social media marketing/networking all built up an empire of brutal death metal oversaturation that was memorable for its innovative highs and made a joke by its infuriating lows. Before Devourment had split up twice and reformed in 2005 they had created an unmissable buzz surrounding their graphic imagery, some pretty raw shock value lyricism, and a knack for grooves that’d make people want to attend their intermittent shows. You could see the band get serious as an entity and a business as they reformed and the 2005 to 2014 era of the band made it clear that their visibility and recognizable ‘face’ amongst slam death progenitors had afforded them many luxuries despite the rapidly shifting world of brutal death around them. Their fifth full-length, ‘Obscene Majesty’, is a paradigm shift of sorts that dials back to re-push the limits of their roots with a brutal death record that is somehow tastefully modern within a sub-genre that’d typically puke in the face of ‘taste’ as a principle.
As entertaining as it might be to read the two paragraphs of commentary I’d drafted with regard to each line-up change within Devourment since 1995 and how they’d allowed for growth and greater character among their music but no such shocking development manifests. The nuances separating ‘Molesting the Decapitated’ (1999), ‘Butcher the Weak’ (2006) and beyond aren’t so pronounced that you won’t recognize Devourment in their current state. It does bear mentioning that all members have either changed roles or swapped their place in the band with a former member since 2014, the only exception being original drummer/co-founder Brad Fincher‘s Meshiha bandmate, bassist Dave Spencer. ‘Molesting the Decapitated’ vocalist Ruben Rosas‘ differently guttural approach to vocals does create some distinction with interim vocalists Wayne Knupp and Mike Majewski as his phrasing is cleaner and generally less desperate for attention among the mix. So, a full shake-up with some original crew on hand — How does it hold up? Hell, its the first Devourment album I’ve wanted to listen to more then 2-3 times.
It has been six years since Devourment made their Relapse Records debut with ‘Conceived in Sewage’ (2013), an album where the band had clearly lost their sway amongst the shock-value addicted with something at least an inch more cerebral than the “Fuck Her Head Off” days. I’m a halfway lapsed brutal death fan at this point and probably the right mark for this record since I haven’t picked up a Devourment release with any serious intent since the ‘1.3.8’ (2000) compilation which’d introduce me to ‘Molesting the Decapitated’. Rosas performed vocals on that album and Fincher‘s style of drumming might’ve improved threefold since but, each bring an instantly recognizable waft of that first album twenty years later. ‘Obscene Majesty’ isn’t a trip back to the good ol’ days, though, so be prepared for the bass droppin’ and gravity-thuggin’ of modern day slam within. As I’d remarked earlier these guys are professional enough at this point to know when to reel it in and hang on a big heavy groove or moshable hook for effect. It feels like a serious, downtuned-to-hell death metal record from start to finish.
If you’re looking for that upping the ante, ultra-disgusting “Kill your Mother, Rape your Dog” era of brutality in terms of stylistic aggression ‘Obscene Majesty’ is generations beyond those old trailer park boys chugs. I’d say Rosas‘ lyrics, and even Majewski‘s on the previous album, have moved beyond “bitch killing” prose towards a extreme Suffocation-esque bout of mayhemic imagery– Still just as disturbing as it needs to be. I’m that nerd who loved death metal in the first place because it was filthy, over the top, and way too-serious so I’m glad to hear an emphasis on heaviness here that outshines the previous record by a good mile. At this point, sure, I’m getting into a Devourment record and considering what a self-conscious old school death metal doofus I can be that should speak volumes as to how palatable this is for how overblown and extreme it comes across. R.I.P. all of those great forum and chatroom digs on people doing Liu Kang moves in the pit to their music, at least.
So, there are riffs? Whoa, some, but slam is sort of like dub-step where the drop (a breakdown, essentially) is why you showed up in your yellow camouflage pants ready to dance. The guitar work that I gravitated towards ended up being the sludgier breaks where (former bassist, now guitarist) Chris Andrews hammers as deep as possible on that low-slung B string and juxtaposes that moment with a faster take on that riff. It sounds simple but it is one of the most effective tricks shared between New York and Texas brutal death lineages. “Sculpted in Tyranny” has basically everything Devourment do right on this album and in particular the riff around two minutes into that song is an excellent example of the growling, impossibly heavy lurches that contrast with the standard brutal death moments that carry the band from moment to moment. No doubt brutal death is meant to be enjoyed as you’re living in the moment so I don’t typically ding a record for being less than memorable, though I consider it a high mark if I can remember more than the general sound of the band. ‘Obscene Majesty’ is impressive in sound and style but I was lucky to latch onto one or two big moments before it was over, largely due to its lengthiness at ~48 minutes; At least eight minutes too long for a slam album and probably fifteen for folks who aren’t already well-digested in the brutal death adjacent sub-genre’s juices. Still, I’ll stick to my guns here and suggest this is the finest work from the band to date and they’ve made the right choice in fully restructuring the line-up and reassigning roles for ‘Obscene Majesty’. Moderately high recommendation. For preview purposes I’d suggest “Narcissistic Paraphilia” has some of the albums most impressive characteristic feats and “Sculpted in Tyranny” provides a window into most every strength Devourment are bringing into this day and age.
Enraptured in supreme castigation. 3.75/5.0
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