ROTHEADS – Slither in Slime (2022)REVIEW

The sewers are their cathedrals, the rats their vanguard and at dusk those pitch black alleyways behind us will be our graves! Bucharest, Romania-based dredgers and moldering filth warrior quartet Rotheads now leave the astute death metal listener’s ear a tightened amount of negative space to fill with imagined horrors as the terrifying expansion of their sound finally grows a thousand spindly legs, their clicking n’ joint-cracking masses wriggling enough to crawl from up the sewers and… into the warmth of the basement. ‘Slither in Slime‘ will only disappear in mind as bluntest ‘old school’ murder music when you’ve stared long enough into the shadows, made out the silhouette of their sewage-dripping weapon in hand, and begun to scream along with their mid-paced stabbing motions beyond. Only then will it serve as an example of the best type of expansion a death metal artist could serve themselves as a second major release, wherein ideas are bigger and songcraft becomes more capable but more importantly the personality of their action is amplified into a larger than life unleash, a nauseating and brain-sapping muddy crypt to be sacrificed within.

Slither in Slime‘ is an “hyperbolic” death metal influenced experience in the sense that it emulates not only ‘old school’ death metal’s nascent rhythmic sensation but also the physical experience of listening to death metal as it echoes through an average-sized personal bedroom, much in the way that your first hit of ‘The Karelian Isthmus‘ or ‘Severed Survival‘ might’ve sounded via budget priced department store stereo speakers and, eh, with respect for that late 80’s era of compressed grittiness. That isn’t to say that Rotheads have fished out a retro lo-fi bunk-chunker from their pockets, instead this second record manages an expansive tape-hissing marvel of satisfyingly infectious proportion, a basal amplification of the ‘old school’ listening experience imagined here in gloriously ‘death metal on late night college radio’ style depiction. By rendering their second album with more sonic depth, more grotesque kitsch and depraved conviction beyond what the old guard actually had they make brilliantly exaggerated character out of what’d mostly been big, dumb teenaged fun back in the late 80’s.

It counts for something that Rotheads do this murky, almost punkish and even a bit doomed horror death gig on their own terms and for the sake of, well, actual goddamned death metal music. Today we have incessantly cranked-out and too fuckin’ glossy remasters (or, plausible self-imitation re: Static Abyss) at a rate meant to sustain the hunger for this sort of unending high definition upscaling of what I’d consider a nostalgia better left ugly and unlistenable, where integrity were originally built. While the next generation claws at their skulls wondering why anyone over the age of twenty-five finds their bouncy, metalcore influenced riffing a bit dull, there is something transcendent to be found in seating oneself next to Rotheads‘ realm of roaring, dismal madness and hearing some earnest muse taken from the late 80’s/early 90’s era of underground extreme metal mania and feeling the lysergic dread of it all pooling in mind unto a band whom sound only like themselves. I don’t think you could accuse a record like ‘Slither in Slime‘ of trying to fit neatly into the cynical realm of unfeeling, desperately self-degraded ‘old school’ feigned naivete anyhow, and this despite the excellent cover art of this thing looking like a ’91 demo tape. Instead it seems that these folks actually like that stuff beyond trend and concern for hyped timely movements, hoping to put -their- spin on death metal rather than picking up the stinking hot shit of revisionist trash.

Their gutsy, weirding atmospheric traits are entirely Rotheads‘ own. — This isn’t necessarily pure death metal evolved, though, just amplified and given an off-color character. As much could’ve been said about their debut full-length ‘Sewer Fiends‘ back in 2018 where I might’ve been a bit rowdy in reviewing it and comparing its obscure sound to debuts from Incubator (Germany), Alchemist (think ‘Jar of Kingdom‘) and Exoto but only for the sake of that albums frequently shifting rhythmic turns and strong use of psychedelic, dripping-weird lead guitars for coloration. This wasn’t completely spot-on, we could just as well pick up debut records from Convulse, Abscess and Cryptic Brood to get a slightly clearer idea in hindsight but, here on this second album we can hear Rotheads becoming more proficient and dialing into something still hideous, building upon a solid idea with a cleaner rhythmic plow and more sparing use of their mutant-minded trailing leads. Well, at least to a point of impact which accentuates each song as those leads constitute a worthy touch of signature for the band. “Skin Forest” probably communicates this best as I push deepest into the weeds of their work at this point with its enormous bass guitar tone, insectoid leads and batwing-spreading ooze verses but we can just as well cut to “Spectral Visitation” for this tempered yet still wild gunking about atmosphere which these folks have used to echo a very primal death metal riff progression within and one which develops from blunt statements (see: “Gut Mauled“) into occasionally complex weaves, spurts of riff, which impress if we sit down and dig into ’em a bit.

We could get in sword fights over favorite rhythm guitar wobbling, argue on the finer points of each bassline/tone and all that but what’d struck me first when firing up ‘Slither in Slime‘ was of course the horror atmosphere, not only the type of slasher movie OST synth hook intro to “Vampyric Inbreeding” (see also: “Spectral Visitation”) but the inclusive ‘room noise’ felt in the mix throughout which, again, invokes an actual confined space (eh, without a roof) that hisses beneath the brutal stride of the record. Rotheads‘ own disturbed, horrified realm of body horror, supernatural menace and ever-impending doom benefits from this sound design because it is presented as a necessary accentuation of their core idea rather than a scene specific requisite or specifically resonant reference. That opener is likely enough to sell anyone on this record as a strong showcase for where these guys expand their cuts into sloshing dynamic fit enough for a ~43 minute record but on my end it was the sort of Finndeath wandering leads that sparked up “Lost in the Cemetery Gardens” that pulled me in for a walk amongst the tombs by way of its lead melody and jogging rhythms beyond its initial string of verses. Underneath the woodsy, mushroomed scent of this piece lies a serious, probably over used guitar hook but it’d absolutely locked me into the full listen more than once just as the first album had.

Sitting back and doddering out to some creepy death metal chugs or sitting on the edge of your seat making twisted air guitar faces at every riff-change however much attention you decide to pay to a full listen of ‘Slither in Slime‘ it will still manage to leave a stinking dent in the moment and potentially stick an eerie walk-along guitar lead in mind for days to come. It is the sort of death metal I’ll never turn down, or take a pass on because I now feel confident Rotheads wouldn’t sling a record at me unless it had riffs and a proper disgusting, macabre psychedelic feeling to it all. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (86/100)

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Slither in Slime
LABEL(S):Memento Mori
RELEASE DATE:July 15th, 2022

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