EMBRYONIC DEVOURMENT – Heresy of the Highest Order (2022)REVIEW

[Dick] Cheney’s face turned red with rage. He was on me in an instant, slamming my back into the wall with one arm across my chest and his hand on my throat, choking me while applying pressure to the carotid artery in my neck with his thumb. His eyes bulged and he spit as he growled, “If you don’t mind me, I will kill you. I could kill you—Kill you—with my bare hands. You’re not the first and you won’t be the last. I’ll kill you any time I goddamn well please,”” Cathy O’Brien, Trance Formation of America

For all the goofy reptilian-human conspiracy theories and, ehh, menstrual blood-powered world leadership you’ll have to wade through on their part, alongside some nostalgia on my part, a closer look at Northern California-based trio Embryonic Devourment‘s fourth full-length album quickly reveals itself as yet another damned solid technical brutal death metal release under their belt. At the elemental core of its brains-out, stem cell chuggin’ fracas ‘Heresy of the Highest Order‘ is the sort of tightly performed thrill-a-second rip they’ve been hocking since the early 2000’s, a fourth and finest chance to reveal the (literally) scaly underbelly of the ruling class. For the lifers, the several decades deep dedicated brutalists out there, the quandary will have to be whether or not this is a logical evolutionary event to step up with or a suspicious alien possession of an already ruthless despot (by way of custom interstellar Ouija board thought-scrying).

A few firsts and a logical continuation of their previous path this fourth album represents a sort of maturation that doesn’t lose sight of their ridiculously extreme point of origin, as a brutal death act stirred into form in the early 2000’s. Though they’d released an EP (‘Beheaded by Volition‘) in 2003 these guys first hit my radar in the late 2000’s when I’d been missing bands like Brodequin and Diabolic the most while appreciating the next-level stuff from Deeds of Flesh and Decrepit Birth. Embryonic Devourment had been one of a many bands clearly influenced by the new order presented by labels like Unique Leader earlier that decade, eventually representing both modern and (then) ‘new old school brutal’ extremes on their perfectly ping-snared debut ‘The Fear of Reality Exceeds Fantasy‘ (2008). I’m not saying screwball sci-fi brutal tech-death wasn’t all over the place at the time but that album’d been a serious grab for my taste and the root of my nostalgia for the band in general. Their sound evolved towards the technical with ‘Vivid Interpretations of the Void‘ (2010), a record which’d gotten the band compared to groups like Malignancy a fair deal via a sound nearby Severed Savior‘s second record. That is where my fond recollection dries up as the scene began to fully fixate on slam/deathcore and I’d focused on other death metal realities increasingly from that point on.

The last we’d heard from the band in full-length form was 2014’s similarly themed ‘Reptilian Agenda‘, which was long-awaited at the time and probably more refined than people expected as their signature had evolved in leaps with each album. Pacing was a hue part of that album’s appeal as they presented plenty of highs and lows that’d made it a distinct push beyond the kinda serious-faced ‘Interpretations of the Void‘. This fourth album serves to reintroduce the world to that peaking signature in largely rebuilt form, and of course they’re doubling down on the David Icke-fronted reptilian conspiracy theme. No question Embryonic Devourment are still heavily inspired by that emergence of post-millennium brutal death metal but this record shouldn’t be assumed to be a dead-eyed blunt object nor as meaty n’ raw as you’d expect looking at it. In fact most of ‘Heresy of the Highest Order‘ is all about adding computer-brained finesse to their warp, a forked-tongue whip of tactical arrangement available to the compositions which sounds exactly right in succession with past releases.

This being could kill five men with a swat. The line-up here deserves some consideration up front with the addition of Laceration lead guitarist Donnie Smalls to the fold in 2021 and I assume the eight year gap between albums is otherwise due to the bassist/vocalist Austin Spence taking on guitar duties since the previous fellow left in 2017. Most all of these songs sound like they’re in the umpteenth draft stage, completely combed over for effect, set to flow fast, and intent on showcasing a fresh version of Embryonic Devourment‘s sound. The big honking spectacle in ear from the first listen on my part was drummer Luke Boutiette‘s performances, a damned beast of a drummer <<always_has_been.jpg>> and this record makes particular spectacle of his work to a degree that I’m getting that itch to show up at a brutal death metal show and creep-stare at the drummers hands all night.

Pick a song, any song, and you’ll have a litany of ideas unspooling in mind like recombobulated human DNA in the hands of a reptiloid genome weaver. The title track particularly caught me off guard with its triple-sped Tucker-era Morbid Angel vocal trade-offs and sprawling machine gunfire of the double-bass drumming, emphasizing their use of staggered rhythmic stunting across the board on the album. The rhythm section continues to flaunt myriad quick-changes and general skill-ups beyond ‘Reptilian Agenda‘ without losing the menacing character, the blood-drinking reptilian possessors of sadistic world leaders, they are embodying. You can see the forest for the trees, more or less, and their tech-attack doesn’t drown out the tuneful flexing that defines each of the eight ~3-5 minute songs herein. It isn’t all machine learned aggression and this amps up the replayability of the record as they’ve got fresh ideas soaking one piece after another. Their bass popping groove-assed swinging rhythms are particularly sharp, such as “Manipulation of the Senses” and “Never Ending Human Suffering” each of which swerving off the road the perfect amount with their grooves.

Without overthinking the tracklist and juicing it for any more extensive description, consider this album non-stop action that moves with the purposeful finesse if a growling, lizard-skulled tyrant heading a multi-national corporation. Embryonic Devourment have always had a knack for making technical brutal death metal impactful but not grating or flatly anxietous, the chops go a long way but at the end of the day they’ve hit us with a set of songs you want to run through a hundred times. The bigger thread holding up throughout their discography is this ability to make ~40 minutes feel like a half hour and a half hour like twenty, this especially lines up with my thoughts on ‘The Fear of Reality Exceeds Fantasy‘ back in the day and ‘Heresy of the Highest Order‘ today — It blazes by with some serious thrill in hand and anytime you want to take a lens to the details they’re all even more class than you realize. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (80/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
TITLE:Heresy of the Highest Order
LABEL(S):Unique Leader Records
RELEASE DATE:February 25th, 2022

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