Kyoto’s unsung ancients of 90’s brutal death metal offer an important lesson for savage young musicians today when it comes time to revisit the Japanese band’s back catalog. It quickly becomes impossible to acquire or access any of their material prior to 2003’s ‘Divination’. Why? The only reason these classic and long-celebrated works of brutal art wouldn’t be available stems from record labels that’d acted as debtors who retain the rights to works in exchange for flat fees or concessions for unpaid debts. This means defunct and deceased former labels end up setting their art in the wrong hands. Backpedaling a bit, I don’t personally know the details but it is a massive shame that todays brutal death junkies are missing out on the mind-numbing slaughterfest of a debut EP (‘Defeat of Sanity‘, 1994) and the seemingly unattainable 1999 full-length ‘Erupted Wrath‘. As timely or aged as the production values were on some of those early recordings Defiled, or specifically guitarist Yusuke Sumita, conjured some one of the most underrated examples of 90’s-to-2000’s death metal paradigm adaptation; From brutal innovation towards uniquely achieved technicality, these guys were always absolute class. We’re about four albums deep into the anxietous technical thralldom of Defiled today as their sixth full-length ‘Infinite Regress’ drops with characteristic subtlety, despite its storming innards.
The eight year gap in between the ‘None So Vile’-esque ‘Divination‘ and the raucous brimming enthusiasm of ‘In Crisis‘ (2011) felt wholly unnatural if only because of the homespun production values and the session musician line-up, which featured members of deathgrinders Butcher ABC and Crash Syndrom. The crew has mostly solidified since 2013 and the production would soon dial back to ‘Human Waste‘ levels of crispy brutality from that point on. Instability has always afforded Defiled an unexpectedly do-it-yourself underground flair that I’ve long appreciated for its busted-assed intensity. The musicianship is surely not amateurish but the rawness of each album builds an expectation of brashness, a loose and very 90’s sense of raw character. It comes as a slight surprise that ‘Infinite Regress’ actually appears with a dynamic render — Unusually quiet until cranked and depthy when at maximum volume. The bass guitar could be a tick more present considering the intricacies it works through but, the production focuses the ear upon drum and guitar interplay first and foremost. Is it too clean? Far from it. Thankfully the core musical personality of Defiled is retained to great effect, the only great change is that the record is far less likely to inspire a migraine.
The angular and abrupt bolts of riff that sling from Sumita‘s mind are written with great foresight for how they’ll clash and infuse with the propulsive drumming Defiled are known for. That sense of interplay and collision is the major draw for the unpretentious, hammered-out technical death metal style the band have developed since 1992. They’re no longer resembling early Cryptopsy nor have they ever relied on fiddly techniques so much as Defiled builds on years of rhythm guitar mastery, taking the speed and fury of brutal death metal and clubbing out shapes that flow mercilessly despite mounds of dissonance expressed. Hints of Voivod and Immolation inevitably seep through this form of phrasing but the cadence of delivery comes nearly as bounding and brutal as classic deathgrind. Unleashing powerful rhythmic flows and toying with them by way of stop-start obstruction and shrill leitmotif ends up both endearingly musical and well, occasionally irritating. When things slow down on (see: “Aftermath”) some of the brutal-tech veneer slips away and the ‘old school’ core of Defiled is perhaps more alien than ever before.
Fourteen tracks ranging from barely two minutes up to five and a half find an average closer to roughly three minutes, this expresses as an effectively cumulative-but-chaotic yank from the pacing of the last two Defiled records. The sensation of being jerked around at high speeds provided by the irregular pace of ‘Infinite Regress’ gives the impression of caustic and needled technicality while loose bouts of repetition stick as the major thematic anchor for the experience. What is the desired effect for the listener? I have long figured that Sumita‘s writing aims for a ‘ride’ rather than a rumination and this aligns with the ‘classic’ innovators that appear to influence the band’s sound. That isn’t to say that ‘Infinite Regress’ isn’t deeply themed or thoughtful but it inspires movement for the standing and chaotic tics among the seated. “Tragedy” is the outlier here thanks to its impressive build at the start and woven main verse riffs which turn on a dime frequently within the 5+ minute song. “So Blind” was a huge highlight during my time with ‘Infinite Regress’ not only for its brevity and crookedly finessed dissolution but for how well it stabs back at that core ‘underground intensity’ I’d championed previously.
Even at a tightly wound 36 minutes in length the density of ‘Infinite Regress’ feels off balance when it comes time to recall and reflect upon the full listen. I had a great time returning to Defiled and found the majority of their sixth album brutal, exciting, adept, and stunningly achieved in its raw performances although there were a few moments where I’d just as well shut it off due to some frustration with repetitive ‘variations on a theme’ felt throughout. For a band working at their craft since 1992 it is a remarkable that they remain virtually untouched by trends in technique and recording methodology, so I greatly admire the honest and brutal reality of Defiled that sustains therein. Moderately high recommendation. This is a fine place to start if you’ve never heard the band before, especially considering their first two records are currently lost in the aethyr.
Moderately high recommendation. 3.75/5.0
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