PHARMACIST – Carnal Pollution (2021)REVIEW

As often as ‘Symphonies of Sickness‘ inspired goregrind has been celebrated over the last thirty years, be it direct worship/tribute or expansion upon key traits expressed, there is yet seemingly endless headspace for bands who manage to get it right, the template remains far too thrilling to ignore. Over the last several years Ukraine borne and Tokyo, Japan-based musician K. Stefanskyi, under the Pharmacist name, has approached this sound from a scholarly, surgically precise level of attentiveness with an innate understanding of not only what made that particular Carcass album so special back in the late 80’s but also the lineage of bands who’d picked up that sound and modulated it themselves. In this sense we are getting the distilled idealism of passionate fandom and the professional skill of a young craftsman’s tunnel vision for style and sound. That said, the wise hand of an artist who knows their shit isn’t going to be the reason you buy ‘Carnal Pollution‘, this latest EP from the duo sells itself with blazing fast sprays of riff and slippery groove front-to-back, managing some intense and unexpectedly catchy moments as it grinds in.

The precedence for the burst of prolific yet decidedly high quality output from Stefanskyi (Failed Treatment, Drainage, Mariner) since forming Pharmacist in 2020 finds a point of origin in the mid-2000’s when a couple of raw demos seeded the inspiration for Crash Syndrom whom officially formed (or, reformed) in 2016 in Tokyo and soon released an album and EP which by all means are no less tactful than Pharmacist and generally bear the same stain of influence, perhaps obsessing more in the realm of 90’s Dead Infection if only for certain choices of tone. We don’t have to see Crash Syndrom as a direct predecessor to this band but when presented as a timeline the transition is fairly seamless at face value. The ‘Forensic Pathology Jurisprudence‘ EP and debut full-length ‘Medical Renditions of Grinding Decomposition‘ were unexpected highlights in the summer of 2020 from a band using smart references to underground classics, such as a direct nod to the album art from the first Pathologist LP. In terms of where the music swayed on the post-‘Reek…’ spectrum on those first two releases, I would say we don’t necessarily have to consider any influence beyond 1995 but should reference early Regurgitate, General Surgery, Dead and Exhumed to some degree. This EP seems to be leftovers, extra songs or material that was too long/cohesive as a whole for another split release seeing as how Pharmacist have released six splits since late last year. The differentiation which the four songs and ~22 minutes of ‘Carnal Pollution’ presents very subtly is, simply put, a bit more ‘Necroticism: Descanting the Insalubrious’ in the mix.

“Obsequial Orchestration” is the dead ringer here, featuring a melodic “Elysian Fields”-esque (Megadeth) bridge riff that is otherwise of course intended to hit a major guitar hook a la ‘Necroticism: Descanting the Insalubrious’ with leads from Andrew Lee (Ripped to Shreds), whom also appears on opener “Disintegration”, wailing over breaks of simple backing riffs throughout. The vocals likewise uncannily line up with this intent well, at least a bit more than usual as he begins to directly snap at Jeff Walker‘s most classic frantic and snarling narratives. By comparison “Disintegration” feels like a more holistic punch through wet skin for Pharmacist, their usual high-energetic bombast hitting a more finessed edge. They’ve never been about pure stinkhammer filth but in some respects this song, and “Carnal Pollution” for that matter, begin to elevate profoundly beyond the puked and kicking barbarism of ‘Symphonies of Sickness’ much in the same way a lot of Slavic and Scandinavian deathgrind bands would in the early to mid 90’s. That doesn’t mean I’m expecting something like ‘Eternity: The Weeping Horizons’ whenever Pharmacist manage LP number two but that these songs indicate this need to “rock out” into their own exuberant skin in a way that is perfectly logical if we consider the major inspiration of the project. The key point being that the grungy splatter of the project is well and alive here as they manage these four intensely memorable pieces.

There’ll be no better way to stroll right into the glut of October than this fistful of worm-ridden, semi-melodic and methodically set goregrind from Pharmacist. Though they could simply slap around in the mud of late 80’s/early 90’s gore forever for my own taste, they’ve managed something thrilling and memorable thanks to just a few well-placed leads and strong yet subtle use of melody. Anyone keeping classic sounds this fresh and inspiring deserves a high recommendation from me.

High recommendation. (77/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Carnal Pollution
LABEL(S):Black Hole Productions
RELEASE DATE:October 1st, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp

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