CEREBRAL ROT – Excretion of Mortality (2021)REVIEW

We are enthralled by modern ruins for a plethora of reasons, not least because they inspire in us a rational paranoia that taps into our own eventual demise—both individual and, more importantly, collective. […] In this manner, modern ruins arouse both despair and fascination, a fascination with our own death and a tangible image of the precise form it will take. They remind us, in a very sublime way, of the inevitability of human extinction, refocusing the terrain of ‘ruin’ away from the ancient world and towards the imminent future. Since the sublime was always acquainted in some way with the threat of death, its alliance with the notion of ruin porn is unsurprising and essential.” Siobhan Lyons, Ruin Porn and the Obsession with Decay

A growing obsession with sickness, gore, death and the decay of human flesh is easily scaled alongside the correlation of fixation upon visibly crumbling civilization when each reaction is framed as acknowledgement of communal mortality — To live amongst the ruins instills a consciousness reserved for those who plainly see and accept the downward spiral of the species beyond the conquer of all serious mammalian predatory threat. Cannibalistic “Decay-drive” or, our erogenous autolytic fantasy witness represents a half-step towards the sinister urge; Side-stepping the reality of active human decay, shuttering all sensors but the eyes and ears to the sensation of death, means a numbing reaction too often mistaken for pleasure or thrill. Without plain-as-day witness of the decaying human form and its impressively caustic and reeking disintegration we lose touch with the severe reality of our own soon rotten corpse and forget what an indignant and toxic stew it is that we fear becoming. Seattle, Washington-based death metal quartet Cerebral Rot wield the offensive stench and grime of the dead in most heaping fistfuls on this their second full-length album ‘Excretion of Mortality‘, a slow-grinding and vomited spell of ‘old school’ scum that serves to iterate upon their first.

The invagination of their death/doom impulses is more richly dark, the vocals become even more of a guttural pleasuredome of their own, and the elite hooks of their lead guitar details only improve yet, I don’t think the majority of folks will view ‘Excretion of Mortality’ as intending to be anything more (or less) than Cerebral Rot’s debut record ‘Odious Descent Into Decay‘ was back in 2019. To be fair they’d not had a ton to improve upon from the start. Though it could’ve benefitted from a more dynamically rich sound, every bit of my fairly high-praise review for the previous album still applies to this next record. For the uninitiated this means careful selection from three schools (British, United States and Finnish) of earliest death metal cleverness spreading their heavy hands across Europe circa the late 80’s and mid-90’s via the eye and ear-catching menace of ‘Symphonies of Sickness’ and ‘Severed Survival’ by example of Vomiturition, Xysma, and Impetigo. Don’t get the wrong idea, this isn’t deathgrind or a Demilichian belch-‘n-slash but a convenient aesthetic and aural analogue for the gory edge of underground death metal circa 1989, representing the preservation of certain key traits handed down as the mid-90’s approached. Though Cerebral Rot‘ve tuned their guitars to a diaphragm belching its death knell and their vocals even lower, it’d be an overstatement to set ‘Excretion of Mortality’ as flatly old school, ‘retro’, or easily compared to the mud and murk of USDM’s generally faceless current new generation. Instead we find a steadfastly traditional yet personally twisted ideal of death metal presented with an eye for the technicolor devolution of the revisionist lead sub-genre today.

That isn’t the whole picture, though, right? Of course just one spin through ‘Excretion of Mortality’ reveals the pinch-harmonic fueled finesse and doom enriched furor of early Incantation, a sound which was previously evident and often compared to the first Cenotaph album, via similar influences but here they’ve emphasized the gloom and doom of their movements to stunning effect. We could dissect and reattach these flayed bits of influence for pages on end but that isn’t the where the impact of Cerebral Rot lies, this is not an endless echo chamber for influential cherry-picking made into grey stew but instead a clear and present focus upon riffs and movement that invoke the feeling of lurking fear, rhythmic motions that stalk and sprint beneath psychotically needled lead hooks and explosive whammy-grinding solos. I shouldn’t need to make this point as to why these guys stand out since they’ve said it all within the first few minutes of opener/title track “Excretion of Mortality” where we’re treated to an electrified corpse of a performance from the two guitarists. Vocalist/guitarist Ian Schwab (Excarnated Entity, Crurifragium) continues to be the glue arisen from melted bones, the gelatinous medium to fill and flavor the already heavy atmosphere that Soundhouse Studio has pulled from the band via a live and bleed-intense feeling recording. Guitar work is obviously king here, this is that good sort of death metal that entertains while oppressing the mind, but the vocals are arguably just as important via mid-tone growls and deep guttural roars that often become breathy and unhinged in satisfyingly “live in studio” feeling takes. This should come as no surprise for fans of their first album but I hear every bit of work Cerebral Rot have put into this record to make sure it doesn’t sound phoned-in or flatly similar to the previous. The signature that arises from a few years of iteration and skill development here could be compared to where Cianide was circa 1994, creating their own thickened atmosphere and rhythmic sensibilities while stretching their original pacing to different extremes.

Have they said all they need to by the time that first track finishes it last salvo of intensity? For some death metal listeners, yes, just as ‘Odious Descent Into Decay’ was a chunky-blended slurry of similar forms with irregularly modulated pacing and plenty of doom-crawlers so is this record. It counts that the drumming is even more on point, the guitars form even more memorable arrangements, and such but the cavernous intensity of the full listen will be a heap of hot, hot summer sun drenched medical waste for most brains to process up front. “Bowels of Decrepitude” is a perfectly chosen introductory single with its breaks into blast n’ squeal guitar intensity and finer details such as the moody organs that play off of the rhythm guitar in the outro. It also showcases the vastly improved use of drum fills via a drum sound I find to be authentically late 80’s with a sort of grindcore/death-thrash timbre that showcases finessed and barbaric movements in equally strong light. On that note, the second single “Vile Yolk of Contagion” hones in on the Carcass-esque inward-stabbing motions of early Finndeath and touches upon some of the typical doomed gallop that ‘Excretion of Mortality’ presents. These two pieces should offer some strong confidence in what the rest of the album has to offer, though they don’t showcase the actual death/doom plunge of my favorite track “Drowned in Malodor” and the rest of Side B, which has stolen the show for my own taste after countless full listens to this album. The 11+ minute slime-slicked corpse ride to Hell of “Crowning the Disgustulent (Breed of Repugnance)” is nothing short of a masterpiece to end the record with, almost overshadowing the vital impact of the opener as the album cycles back around.

When considering the full package here, I’m prone to suggest Cerebral Rot could get away with a more “mature” horror presentation if they’d ever choose it but there is plenty of charm to glean from the eye-accosting cover artwork by tattoo artist Karina Monzon whose work you’ll recognize from Disembowel‘s underrated ‘Echoes of Terror’ last year. The uh, visceral appeal of it certainly makes the record a memorable grab n’ gawk and there are endless tortured souls to discover within a good stare. Keeping pace steady, raising the bar just enough to stay on point and- going somewhere seriously fucking cool with it finds these imposing, spastic Pacific Northwest folks getting it right again on their second cycle for my own taste. I appreciate each of their releases more with this expansion now in place and, that is entirely rare in the over-excited and underwhelming world of underground death metal releases today. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (85/100)

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Excretion of Mortality
LABEL(S):20 Buck Spin
RELEASE DATE:June 25th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Death Metal

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