INTESTINAL HEX – The Exalted Chambers of Abhorrence (2021)REVIEW

From the first soaring lead-in to the scrambled solo adjacent we know what species of alien death metal Intestinal Hex, the latest project from prolific Toronto, Ontario musician Daniel Bonofiglio (Gutvoid, Fumes, et al.), is yet we should not rely solely on our ‘old school’ instincts to gloss over what value his debut album, ‘The Exalted Chambers of Abhorrence‘, persists with beyond gut-churning, hole sputtering first impressions. The wet elastic snap of bowel-tuned circa ’93 tech-death riffs are nonetheless clear indicator to fans of the eternal echo-chamber of ‘Nespithe‘ by design, or, enough so that the on-boarding is sleek as a smooth muscle-lined organ; The macro shapes and standards of the classics are gelatinous bones within this sludgy, jog-happy beast otherwise. What manner of specific riffcraft and vocal performances explored within do not necessarily crawl back in time to speak to the origin of this style of death metal, though, instead we find the artist whirling these occluded entrails into a knot of his own sloshed n’ ground-up vision — Taking the listener on a trip through the innards of a man-eating, parasite infested shit cavern and amassing all manner of corporeal horrors as we’re sluiced towards the pit.

There are a couple of alchemical formulae we could use to describe the Intestinal Hex experience. The “easy mode” option is just whip out Fetid‘s tonal chunk and Chthe’ilist‘s under-burped first demo ‘Amechth’ntaas’m’rriachth’ give it about fifty percent more groove and reel those vocals back into a normative Abscess-esque range of spittin’ wretch and you’re basically there. For those of us who collect the old bones of dead bands and wear them as psychic keys used to explore the bowels of endlessness, we’ll need to wheel our mind palace’s astrometric chamber back to ’89 Carcass and the Finndeath mutants spawned via tangential mention of Adramelech‘s ‘Spring of Recovery’ to start. Moving quickly along to what I’d consider the precedence for the right gurgle and groove with Agonized‘s ‘Gods…‘ and, to ensure we have some early USDM-minded touches, Pyphomgertum‘s ‘…To The Mesphil‘. This is pretty advanced mercurial whirling on my part but I don’t think too much of a stretch if we consider ourselves living A.D. or, several generations deep into the After Demilich era of the craft. So, you’ve got an idea of the chunk riffs, the semi-technical meter and the atmospheric “alien guts” vibe of the record but hey, no doubt I meant it when I said Intestinal Hex aren’t just playing along with strict traditions. Deeper wounds scarify the relatively short (~28 minute) gastric tunnel as soon as we enter opener “Bowels Transmogrified” where all previously suggested traits also imply ‘atmospheric’ death metal bemusement and a few frothy sludge/death riffs.

The same major transference we see manifest between early 90’s death metal and the simplified translation of this current generation of ‘old school’ influenced death metal persists here, where the itch to stretch away from anxietous riffs-per-minute repetition into big, burly grooves proves too strong. So be it if folks want their death metal presented as groovy body music calmed to a medical marijuana level of ease. This ends up a decent showcase for ultra-downtuned guitar work and sludge apropos tone, menacing and curling at the edges but holding to a mid-pace due to needing a wide berth in avoidance of a pure mud-butt chug sound. From my point of view Intestinal Hex has it all cleverly mapped to the point that the slower, progression-heavy attack of ‘The Exalted Chambers of Abhorrence’ ends up being an entertaining, engaging enough listen. With this in mind, if “Experiments in Surgery” was even a touch less complex or ‘musical’ in its rolled-out riffing I’d likely have clipped it off the running order for being comparatively “underfed” in terms of guitar work and, well, I’m not hip to gurgling mouth noises in any case. The vocals here are ace otherwise, I believe this is Bonofiglio‘s first record doing all the vocals to date; His style is somewhat guttural but always intelligible and varied via a nutso sort of expressivity that builds as the running order progresses. His characterization makes all the difference and definitely helped “sell” this record for my own taste. I particularly love the ‘Acts of the Unspeakable’-sized freakouts all over “Suddenly Psychotic”. My favorite piece here, “Parasitic Hallucinosis” comes at the very end of the album and I think I’d singled it out early on because it stands out as an intentional endpoint for the trip, setting us outside of the churn-and-freak of the previous songs, using a lean beat and a wrist-clenching run on repeat to build the song’s tension. This is probably the sludgiest moment on offer here beyond the riff that introduces the album and this only gets bigger as it unfolds.

Though I doubt I’ve fully conveyed what an easy ride this record is, the bigger point of praise here is the balance of many elements which are somewhat innate to the artist’s larger body of work; Complexity, brutality, Finndeath gore-grime and invaginating grooves all count for something but we cannot escape the notion that these are all songs and not just imitative exercises meant to convey once scene or too-obvious retro shtick. Dunno how ‘serious’ of a record this is, but I’d sure as hell locked into its sound fast and continue to return for another hit of its brutal, quick and dirty full listen. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (79/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
TITLE:The Exalted Chambers of Abhorrence
Stumpgrinder Records,
Ballistic Savagery
RELEASE DATE:July 21st, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp
GENRE(S):Death Metal

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