INOCULATION – Celestial Putridity (2021)REVIEW

Don’t give me any of that intelligent life stuff, find me something I can blow up.Dark Star (1974)

The malaise of climate controlled isolation away from inhospitable realms is bound to leave even the most intrepid explorer drooped in the same old posture over the same old waste evacuation tube, puking whatever green infectious sputum the lacking peristalsis of a weakened gut cannot digest. The caged and sterilized animal persists with increasingly neurotic behavior, be it boredom induced fermented bioreactor sludge-chugging or, collecting unstable lifeforms as pets for the sake of companionship. The trio of fellowes piloting Cleveland, Ohio-launched death metal explorer Inoculation aren’t trying too hard to get out of the volatile region of space they’ve found themselves inhabiting, a cold and frantically surreal state of barbarism which may or may not prove valuable in sojourn. With ‘Celestial Putridity‘ they finally begin to inhabit the greater beast, allowing enough of a serious-faced and thousand-toothed technique driven maw to spit their prior thematic vision’s half-launched detritus unto greater-honed highs. What lands in hand is shrapnel shat from a beast too confident for the shadows, a shard of a malevolent destroyer that remains impressive even when its movements lack purpose or reason.

You couldn’t walk away from Inoculation‘s greater discography and say they weren’t putting in the work in terms of generally well-practiced, largely high-skill technical/brutal death metal influenced music. That said, it took a handful of years to finally land upon works that were concieved as complete. well-stated thoughts rather than fragmentary ‘old school’ prog-death riff salad. There are too many line-up changes to detail with appreciation for the discography at hand but we can say that guitarist/vocalist Anthony Allen has been the constant recognizable presence within Inoculation since they formed in 2011, quickly releasing the ‘Mayan Massacre‘ (2011) demo where Allen‘s guitar technique is already showing its developmental voice despite the need for more training at that point. A relatively rough mix with prominent bass on an old SoundCloud account reveals a largely sluggish Nocturnus and Morbid Angel vibe to the grooves at hand with some moderate appreciation of classic progressive death metal movements to start. Their second and last demo (‘Elysium‘, 2013) to feature current Noxis bassist Dave Kirsch found Inoculation making good on those early influences, managing a sharp and generally tightened Florida death metal informed sense of voicing. This is the one to grab for in terms of finding promising coagulation of stylistic ideals as their choice to add plenty of groove to the open spaces presented by the riffs already indicates some compositional habits found on later releases.

The third demo tape (‘2014‘, 2014) seems to have been the point where Allen takes the reigns with a modern set of influences, including over the top slam and brutal death metal vocal techniques and what sounds like programmed drums set to “brutal death” mode. This is the second major indication of the detail heavy style we’ll find on ‘Celestial Putridity’. They’d tame some of these choices in approach of what was essentially a new line-up starting around 2016 where the core trio that performed on their full-length debut (‘Pure Cosmic Dread‘, 2018) allied and persists today. Their debut seemed unsure of its chosen allegiances, a very serious classic prog-death looking record with a modern but far from pompous style that didn’t have a niche to blast straight toward. The album kinda squeaked out like a compressed fart independently, missing even among those of us who watch like a hawk for keywords “old school technical death metal” in sequence. I don’t want to say it wasn’t hype-worthy, it is still a fantastic record, but it didn’t hit on a ton of hype until Maggot Stomp picked the record up for a tape run in mid-2019. The alignment more-or-less fits today, Inoculation had morphed into a strange fucker at that point and the upped brutality angle at least left room for the caveman gimmick. Anyhow, it was a wild record to take in, one minute you’d have rapid fire Insanity-esque riffing on a song like “Purity” before they’d dissolve its sublimely ‘old school’ moment and chunk into a claustrophobic tunnel of modern tech-death influenced brutality, keeping the major verve of the song intact but mutilating it into a groove that is a less obvious choice for a band of their ilk. There is some genius in grinding fresh edges onto sci-fi readied aughts brutal death sounds by leaning into sporadic moments worthy of freak out deathgrind bands like !T.O.O.H.! and Contrastic, never going full ADHD while holding fast to this classic 90’s tech death feeling, even if just by a thread. Their 2019 follow up 7″ ‘Anatomize‘ seemed headed in a less freak-flag waving direction, better produced for my own taste with a present but less clangorous and slam-compressed sound. This was probably my favorite release from the band at that point and where I could see some direct correlation with the style of ‘Elysium’ and the surprise of ‘Pure Cosmic Dread’. Where does ‘Celestial Putridity’ fit into the Inoculation canon so far?

This one appears to aim a few notches over the top of ‘Pure Cosmic Dread’, perfecting all known parameters without resorting to plain iteration of forms. From the first blast of opener and title track “Celestial Putridity” you’ll witness far more attention paid to vocal patterns and technique change-ups, with the two vocalists employing what sound like impossible to replicate outbursts. The rasping high speed Absu-esque rants come via main lyricist and bassist Nick Nedley‘s snarling black/death n’ grind appropriate tone and Allen‘s own relatively intelligible death metal-askew hardcorish shouts and inhaled narration lend their space opera its caustic brute. You can’t help but appreciate the methed-out enthusiasm of their delivery because, well, they’ve mixed this thing loud and mosh-metal ready, stopping just short of fully snapped brutal death metal pinging and landing upon a sound that is entirely grating, a sandpaper-like immensity that’ll rub the easily overstimulated listener the wrong way even when willingly engaged. The recording and I believe sound design/render comes via Noah Buchanan who you’ll recognize from various bands from the Cleveland area and studio work for Midnight, Kurnugia, and Atomic Witch among others. In terms of style, sound design, and leaning into a brutal n’ weirding state of mind Inoculation have managed to nailed a coherent, professional yet outrageous statement of extremity on ‘Celestial Putridity’ but hey, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve made a major leap in terms of songcraft; The major success of this album is their willingness to emphasize what makes Inoculation distinct from the herd and take to too far, push the extreme to point of true interest beyond the quickly fading spectacle we often find with bands in similar positions.

When I referred to 2000’s Czech avant-garde deathgrind it’d been intentional foreshadowing, the ideal demographic for this stuff is probably the twentysomething brutal death metal fan looking for a band that ganks out the most ridiculous dunder-chugging threads possible but folks who love the manic history of brutal death metal, deathgrind and technical death metal will find the right sort of acid-soaked and bent-backwards brutality here way righteous, too. The best example of all of these traits landing in place without getting too fuckin’ weird is “Verity Consummated” a well-chosen first single and ultimately what’d sold me on checking out the album and grabbing a disc, these guys aren’t total slouches and they’ve pocked this lead single song with all manner of brain-denting technique and kinda catchy yet kinda unresolved riffs to keep the brain juicing for what comes next. That said, the closer I paid attention to ‘Celestial Putridity’ the more small boogers began collecting behind my ears, starting with the busted solo around ~2:50 minutes into “The Edge of Town” which lands a straight up wobbly Van Halen noodle finger run that kept offending my ear with its laze on every spin, and not in a good way. Likewise cursory, “Kaneh-Bosm” ends on a similarly flat note, though the spoken word and outro effects still kinda manage the landing uh, on a throwaway vignette making the spiritual connection between man and marijuana. You’re only going to notice small, “who cares” muss like that if you’re hanging onto every note so, my gripes here are both a testament to how easy it is to lock into ‘Celestial Putridity’ but also a suggestion that a few moments detracts from whatever serious appreciation I had for their performances here.

Granted the second half of the album beyond that point holds fast in focusing on riff-smacked brutal death metal, making good use of their turbo-charged and percussive high gain guitar tone, I do not doubt these guys were indoctrinated by the brutal and technical feats of the 2000’s when faced with pieces like “Unmade”, which hones into this immediately as a showpiece for what these guys can do when pushing themselves to high-precision standard. A row of hits follows from there with the second single “Ovnis Triangulares” landing on the right side of the previous song’s momentum while reprising the dual vocal performance we’d gotten as the album kicked off. This is a strong suit they could do even more with, plastering the dual vocal ideas all over ‘Celestial Putridity’ does a lot to keep the pulse of ideas up and the narrative unpredictable. After countless runs through the album the best songs for my own taste are the ones that dig their own channel and aim for mangled-ass brutal death beatings. That isn’t to say they should lean away from pure spectacle, I do love the vocal interplay and wilderness that “Xerthaneus” reaches for — This’d been the song they more or less stole the show with it when it’d featured on the ‘Chasm of Aeons‘ split last year and it is a huge highlight for Side B here as well as they tweak the speed of the piece to fit the brutality of ‘Celestial Putridity’ and add even more detailed guitar work via at least one more solo. If they kick around the running order for vinyl “Xerthaneus” should absolutely kick off Side B rather than sit in its far-reaches, it is too much of a stunner in upgraded form. Point made anyhow, if we can overlook the filler song about weed, the second wind of this album is all killer through the end.

As often as we find this upcoming generation of death metal bands just having a good time, providing mellow sewer kid hardcore mush, the ones who are looking chill and putting a ton of serious work in behind the scenes, like Inoculation, are the ones to truly watch. I don’t have a clear idea of where they’ll take this sound and I think that is the biggest virtue of landing in the alien world of ‘Celestial Putridity’, they’re going to keep my dumb ass guessing and make solid work of it. A moderately high recommendation.

Moderately high recommendation. (75/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Celestial Putridity
LABEL(S):Maggot Stomp Records
RELEASE DATE:April 9th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Death Metal,
Brutal Death Metal

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