CYTOTOXIN – Nuklearth (2020)REVIEW

Life beneath the Elephant’s foot. — Hail corium down upon us! No greater suggestion that mankind are among the Earth’s most devastating vermin today speaks louder than long-term studies of reinvigorated natural areas devoid of humanity following major nuclear events. The ‘zone of alienation’ that serves to quarantine the Chernobyl power plant in Pripyat, Ukraine has long been a darling of pop-science journalism thanks to caesium dusted puppies and the retreat of endangered animal populations to the secluded woods within the thirty kilometre radius of the 1986 disaster, yet the reality of nuclear devastation has not fully hit home for humanity. Three key takeaways from three decades of scientific examination provide hope but, perhaps only for the most devout apocalyptic servants today: The first is that nuclear radiation repels insects and men alike, all manner of repulsive and sensitive creatures that’d know better than to predate the irradiated. The second is that frequent natural forest fires are spreading cancerous death through smoke rich with radioactive particulate, and beyond that point a big enough explosion (due to the corium’s inevitable interaction with ground water) could mean a massive burst of air and water contamination sure to kill countless humans in the long run. The third and most important idea is that nature might not inevitably thrive due to the geologic amount of time needed for intense radioactive particles to decay. Eradication of all humanity via targeted nuclear strikes, or further lucky mistakes, will eventually bury the willful ignorance of the species. German technical/brutal death metal quartet Cytotoxin are counting on this inevitable end as vital motivation for change, having spent the better part of the last decade developing a most refined version of their Geiger–Müller counter popping craft that’d speak to the right sets of ears. This fourth full-length album, ‘Nuklearth‘, does so quite effortlessly as the band switch things up to enhance their own signature sound.

Formed in 2010 and on an urgent tangent for the first few years these Chemnitz-based fellows wouldn’t make any drastic changes early on, self-producing their first record (‘Plutonium Heaven‘, 2011) which was notable for its Origin-esque plow, slam feelin’ snare clang and generally tight performances. They’d swap out a guitarist before their second album (‘Radiophobia‘, 2012), wherein they found themselves signed with Unique Leader, and would eventually swap out their original drummer just before the long break in between recordings was broken with their notable third album ‘Gammageddon‘ (2017). Just as ‘Radiophobia’ was a refined push beyond ‘Plutonium Heaven’ so is ‘Nuklearth’ a stepping up beyond the already impressive ‘Gammageddon’. How so? The point of impact is probably not as obvious to folks who listen to brutal death on a regular basis but basing songs around vocal cadence and its emphasis, rather than preset drum arrangement, leads to some divergent and frankly less percussion obsessed displays of aggression. The result is a chunky, slammin’, groove-heavy technical brutal death metal album all the same but one that isn’t nearly as tiresome as it should be. Granted, the production/render here is impossibly slick via Kristian Kohlmannslehner (Benighted, Aborted, Disavowed) so before you decide to dig into ‘Nuklearth’ understand that it is crafted with the ‘biggest’ standards of modern brutal death metal in mind.

Drums are a good place to start in terms of where the interest lies on Cytotoxin‘s latest record but in terms of the actual recording it appears the kit-hittin’ was the final touch applied. Sure one could consider this backwards thinking to some degree, alongside the choice to not use any hi-hats, yet the results are not unusual or outlandish by any means. Piccolo snare pings and impressive, splashy runs make for a listening experience that is initially all about the percussion (at least in my mind) to start. “Soul Harvester” serves this focus best as an example of Steven Stockburger‘s most intricate and confidently approached work to date and I’ve started with this point because his work had been the “thing” that’d gotten me into ‘Gammageddon’ and the band as a result. Grimo, as a brutal death vocalist, seems to have long been the venue for Cytotoxin to expand and troubleshoot and I don’t think this is because this obtuse brand of growl suitable for brutal death is an artform in need of revision but, because communication with the listener is vital to the core goals of the band. He is at his most expressive, layered, and readable at this point but still certainly competing with the bombastic nature of the technical/brutal hybrid death form in motion. There is some inherent intelligence to the design of ‘Nuklearth’ which emphasizes a high median standard for all elements by elevating the drum + vocal frontispiece while the guitar/bass performances provide character and spine for statements made. The result? Well, “Atomb” sounds quite typical to start, with what I’d consider a Deeds of Flesh-esque intro, but when speaking to the overall impression left by the full listen there is a sense of intelligent balance inherent to the experience that feels appropriately miles away and years beyond the boxed-in cacophony of ‘Plutonium Heaven’ back in 2011.

Why on Earth should you bother with a shred-heavy brutal tech-death record in 2020? It’ll ultimately come down to where your head is at with absolute ear bruiser extreme metal. I’m not that old but I can’t help but hear the suburban slap of an impact sprinkler when this type of pacing and patternation hits my head. On that same note the other associations that come to mind are a mix of Polish and North American brutal death metal sounds of the last two decades alongside hints of Spawn of Possession and various technical, brutal and slam death metal acts that’d likely inspired Cytotoxin along the way. If this is to be considered the most distinct release from the band to date, where does it truly stand out?

In terms of sound and composition ‘Nuklearth’ will largely serve as a round of comfort food to be ravenously devoured by most and you could moderately include me in that pack. Otherwise the greater statement of the lyrics might not win a Nobel prize or whatever but I like what Cytotoxin have to say and it seems they’ve paid closer attention to clarity of statement this time around rather than fitting in too many clever moments. To move beyond glorifying the horrors (and “successes”) of Chernobyl towards a further-reaching message that is ultimately environmental is valuable on some deeper level, though the bigger picture is yet our inevitable painful death and complete annihilation. It is the thought that counts, and I mean that with consideration for the complete package Cytotoxin brings here on their fourth and inarguably most impressive album — They’re on a roll and every detail matters, be it the clobbering bass drops of lead single “Dominus” or the Geiger counter sparking over piano outro of “Mors Temporis” via Tommy Bonnevialle (Deathawaits), every bit of “more” applied to ‘Nuklearth’ enhances the full listen and enriches upon further investigation. Plenty of technical interest for nerds, loads of brutality for thugs, and a reasonable enough balance of each for the rest of us to find some footing within. I can give a fairly high recommendation of Cytotoxin‘s latest record with the a caveat that you’ll need more than cursory interest in the larger sub-genre hybrid and its modern permutations to find its detail redeeming.

High recommendation

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
LABEL(S):Unique Leader Records
RELEASE DATE:August 21st, 2020
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Brutal Death Metal,
Technical Death Metal

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