UNDEATH – Lesions of a Different Kind (2020)REVIEW

Erroneously high fluence in lasered ablation of diseased brains and the smooth pink and fleshy nothing that’d incessantly regenerate — This cruel, meaty corridor of grey slime and coyly peeking pods is primordial invasion having reached its factorial strength, an alien in human skin glowing shocking green as it shits from its gestation unto gasping murderous action. Lovecraftian psychic shock and mortifying, cruelest gore-blasted victimization assimilates nothing, their goal is erratic and complete hammering death. Borne an entity tailored to be toxic to our watery biology the freshest and now increasingly self-slickened pod-birth to arrive in the last couple of years bubbles up from the hillside crypts of Rochester, New York as a death metal trio (now a quintet) Undeath who bring their own brand of groovy-yet-frantic thwacking mania to a full-length sized debut. ‘Lesions of a Different Kind‘ intends to be nothing more, and nothing less, than pure and driven United States death metal in the tradition of the earliest of 90’s — Barbaric yet ornate songcraft entirely driven by the pursuit of the hardest ass-shaking riff.

This isn’t the most surprising turn of events beyond their popular pair of demo tapes that’d impressed throughout 2019; Their first tape (‘Demo ’19‘, 2019) was meticulously focused on clever and absolutely torturous riffing, sounding like a NYDM take on Demilich‘s skronking trip. With their second tape (‘Sentient Autolysis‘, 2019) the trio would signal the way forward wouldn’t be as heady or technical with some clearer focus on finding the bigger groove of each piece, a la Tomb Mold, and pushing for their own point of view. With ‘Lesions of a Different Kind’ Undeath now achieve fuller production values (still rendered via Ben “The Bonglord” Cultrara) and songs more clearly written for two guitars, sapping some of the basement level grit that characterized their demo tapes. In this sense their debut feels like the ‘Butchered at Birth’ to the formative ‘Eaten Back to Life’ stage that their demo compilation ‘The Compilation of Decomposition’ now represents. This might be slightly jarring, or just appear quite straight forward after the band put no less than six releases surrounding those early demo tracks. A resourceful move that might’ve emphasized Undeath‘s first few cracks at distinction too much. Now that they’ve doubled the size of their efforts and stretched riff ideas into bigger grooves some of the twisted and moderately technical charm is lost for the sake of bringing the mosh alongside their friends and peers. What works on tape versus in a crowded hall is the adjustment made and it’ll serve the band well as they iterate. Do the riffs smoke, though?

As a fan of all things 90’s death metal, sure, Undeath ends up clapping together the cheeks of a pretty classic run of bands that were vital to east coast death metal viability, sans the thrash-minded stuff and most of the early Florida scene. What does that mean? The groove is in their hearts and the tech is in their hands. Mid-paced ‘old school’ death metal influenced by classic brutal death and death metal’s peak visibility circa “Bro, Cannibal Corpse was in Ace Ventura” era. It isn’t fully commercial death metal yet it isn’t outlandish, spaced-out, wild or particularly “extreme” by today’s far-gone standards but, it is catchy and classic shit to the bone. Groove, eh? I mean ‘Lesions of a Different Kind’ doesn’t feature big-assed 90’s hardcore groove kicks a la early Jungle Rot, you could redirect towards something along the lines of Banished ‘Deliver Me Unto Pain’ if it’d have released in the late 90’s (see: Mortal Decay‘s ‘Sickening Erotic Fanaticism’.) Guitarist Kyle Beam clearly understands the jam, the pocket, and punching out riffs until they’re fully ironed into a clean thread and that has been apparent since the first tape, this time around he’s honed into the technicality of early-to-mid Corpsegrinder fronted Cannibal Corpse landing just past ‘Vile’ when Jack Owen and Pat O’Brien were most inspired as a duo on the brutally underrated ‘Gallery of Suicide‘. Before you scoff, get elbow deep in that album and cash me outside — Granted the frenetic speed of ‘Bloodthirst’ is not in order here and Undeath are always thinking of the tune in crafting songs that go far beyond guitar exercises or too cute moshables.

The Pillard-worthy but always clear push of vocalist Alex Joseph ensures you’ll get most of the lyrics without any of it feeling forced or soft. In fact some of the best Incantation-heavy hits (“Kicked in the Protruding Guts”, “Archfiend Coercion Methods”) along the way pre-empt their arguably catchier ‘Necroticism: Descanting the Insalubrious’ worthy change-ups (“Phantasmal Festering”) and brutal death metal influenced bounces, such as the (early) Aborted hype hits that kick off lead single/title track “Lesions of a Different Kind” but I don’t think you’ll leave Undeath‘s debut decisively feeling like you could nail any of these down as a straight up comparison or label as ‘worship’. That said, I see a lot more potential than is realized here and no doubt the band have the gumption to push for “big deal” status if they find a slightly more distinct angle but as is, most of this record is pure satisfaction for rifflords looking for a tightly squeezed pocket. A closer dissection of any of the tracks across the album’s ~35 minute run would amount to even more a dumbass salad bar than I’ve already served in description of the record at face value, what should be clear at this point is that you’re not getting experimental niche metal or dumb-fuck barbarism but a finely tuned and balanced old school death metal record that feels entirely natural as it plays out. Most definitely the product of a band that are smarter than they let on, I’m just gonna keep my arms bro-crossed ’til their ‘Here in After’ moment hits.

The busy red-eyed and intensely detailed artwork of all Undeath releases thus far comes via drummer Matt Browning who overwhelms here with a cavern of murderous gore, this time in glorious technicolor action. This not only sets a vague do-it-yourself tone for a first impression but it recalls the naïve spirit of pre-’90 death metal (see also: Disembowel‘s ‘Echoes of Terror’) where the sub-genre’s breach above the underground had yet demanded big budget fine art. I wouldn’t normally dwell on cover art much but this one serves up a sort of ‘acquired appreciation’ as was the case with Mortiferum‘s debut earlier this year; When album artwork comes internally it often serves as reinforcement of an artist’s unique personality, even if the craft isn’t yet absolute perfection the strokes here echo the rotten tendril-slicked horror of the album itself. All I can hope for with successive generations of death metal is that they keep an eye on the old shit and make it their own, in the case of Undeath they’ve managed this without giving in to the meme metal that surrounds them. The result is a record any death metal fan could not only take seriously but vibe hard as hell with for the sake of its catchy-groovin’ riff-heavy brutality. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (85/100)

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Lesions of a Different Kind
LABEL(S):Prosthetic Records
RELEASE DATE:October 23rd, 2020
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Death Metal

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