FLESHROT – Unburied Corpse (2022)REVIEW

Shots fired. — Half-hearted and ham-fisted vignettes of sloppy 90’s metal revisionism, dumbed down as a point of prideful ignorance to (and appropriation of) the history of the death metal sub-genre is less a generationally considered movement than it is a cult musical personality shared amongst dull touring bands scribbling off riffs they can play half-stoned without forgetting where they are in any particular song. The whole idea that that sort of feat is a question of “new meets old” somehow completely deletes the 2000’s portion of the timeline from the death metal continuum, well, due to a lot of the would-be participants today listening to late-stage metalcore instead of death metal back then. I wouldn’t at all draw a direct line between that idea and the funky, ever-chuggin’ and simple groove metal riffing of Lubbock, Texas-based death metal quartet Fleshrot on this debut full-length but they certainly appear to have been inspired by that particular brand of revisionism. Their first major release, an extended play length longplayer, is inarguably rote if we consider the rhythmic standards of the sub-genre past and present yet they manage to sell a steady half hour chunk of boppin’ chug tunes with moderate conviction nonetheless. Before you ask your parents’ permission to hop on TikTok to dance out your angry reaction to that statement, I will say that ‘Unburied Corpse‘ is admittedly one of the better-formed releases to come from this death-lite/hardcore riffed side of things, even if they arrive with it a couple of years late to the party and without a great deal of sticking power in terms of well, riffs. The sharp taste of classic death metal is nonetheless admirably here by intent and in turn generally delivers on its aesthetic, even if the greater experience merely fills a certain headspace with a lot of hot air.

It ain’t deep man, it’s just alright. — Yeah, don’t get me wrong Fleshrot are cool enough. Formed in 2019 and jamming out a B-movie horror-appreciator demo (‘Demo‘, 2020) soon after, these folks definitely managed to capture a sound which’d been elevated to a major-label ready trend around 2018, not far from what bands like Frozen Soul, Hanging Fortress and Kruelty (among hundreds of others) had been doing between then and now. The sort of caveat for Fleshrot was that they weren’t holding up any one too-obvious muse in terms of where their ‘old school’ death metal informed timbre was coming from, even if the whole gig was relying on horror kitsch to sell a rote approximation of USDM it wasn’t as if we could point to one as their major point of derivation. Anyhow, all that matters when it comes to death metal demo tapes is how much a band captures the listeners imagination, not only in terms of their potential future work but the implications of how serious they are about personalizing their style, aesthetic, and greater presentation. From my point of view Fleshrot had given the impression that they were ready to be considered a contender before having put in the work of individualized songcraft and signature rhythm guitar style. There were no tics, only chugs, and it’d been remarkable how well they’d capitalized on that simple if not somewhat generic appeal with several issues of that tape, including the same material on a split with Chile’s Phantasmagore as well. Points for business acumen, none for riffs quite yet.

Those hoping for any sort of captivating depth achieved beyond the blunt-huffing horror hammer of that demo and the new-found confidence felt within lead single “Wrapped in Entrails”, which we’d gotten a whiff of two years ago (‘Wrapped in Entrails‘, 2020), might breathe deeply of the hype ‘Unburied Corpse‘ naturally inspires for a spin or two to start. Their sound on this record is more-or-less pristine in its render, just raw enough but not at all occluded in its crisp, warmed-over rhythm guitar tone which serves as the major driver during the heat-up of the first three songs. Though these rhythms are fairly similar in pace, tone, and delivery you’ll find Fleshrot‘ve done their best to include moderate detailing in terms of vocal expression and lead scrawls (see: “Intricate Dissection”) without interruption of the easily read, simple death metal/hardcore-infused grooves which dominate the experience. It all meets a certain professional standard well enough.

The ~28 minute scrub of this record is ultimately serving an approximation of other modern takes on this style without any fresh insight of their own but it should have most folks nodding their head to the beat and agreeing that this is definitely, mostly, some kind of ‘old school’ death metal in practice and that it is entirely pleasant to listen to. I didn’t walk into the experience cynical, very much able to enjoy a more primitive groove and being well-versed in the 90’s mosh metal skeleton of groups like this, yet I couldn’t help but feel the thrill of the experience draining in diminishing returns as I reached for Fleshrot for the tenth or so time, having felt like yeah, I’d kinda gotten the idea and it was hey, just alright man. There is something to be said for the simple-yet-effective rhythms of a song like “Draining the Liquified Remains” yet this was typically where I’d begin to feel like the band were stretching for time within the groove which develops in the last half of the song, a riff so absolutely slow and basic that it’d had me reminiscing about learning to palm mute in the garage with my brother back in 1994, trying to get a reign on the looser heavy gauge strings flopping around on my two-step downtuned guitar. The riff-by-numbers feeling of the album intensifies as it progresses, losing the plot promised by those earlier somewhat catchy pieces by the time “Post Burial Extractions” rolls around.

The simple tension and slow, weirdly quiet whammy-diving of “In Filth and Pain” reprises some of the ‘Cause of Death‘-sized tension available to Fleshrot‘s gig but even the shortest song here can’t help but fit a breakdown in for effect, highlighting what I’d consider a limited skill set rather than a lack of ideas. Every single song beyond the first has deployed a similar structure and, sure, this reads kinda cool and focused to start but as I returned to the album each successive listen began to read like a band that weren’t necessarily ready for a full-length (see also: Writhing Shadows). So, when I suggest that ‘Unburied Corpse‘ doesn’t really have anything to say but “has a somewhat cool voice” I am speaking to the holistic effect of the experience in diminishing returns, a way vanilla death metal record in terms of riffs, brutality, and/or personae which appears on par and exciting enough to start but leaves no lasting impression upon the mind. The listening experience is mostly a pleasure, though, and I did get some reasonable mileage out of it so, this ends up counting for something even if it didn’t end up blowing me away. A moderate recommendation.

Moderate recommendation (72/100)

Rating: 7 out of 10.
TITLE:Unburied Corpse
LABEL(S):Me Saco Un Ojo,
Desert Wastelands Productions
RELEASE DATE:August 1st, 2022

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