Devourment - Obscene Majesty - (9/10)
Published on August 26, 2019
It’s an almost universal belief that an artist will pull out of the cylinder his best works at the beginning of his career, just after reaching the point of so-called “artistic maturity”. Also, some people believe in the existence of a particular timespan, called by some “creative decade”, during which a vast majority of the aforementioned artist’s operas tend to be born. Facts tend to confirm this theory, especially if we’re talking about a musician or a band, as usually the best albums of an ensemble, the real masterpieces, are concentrated in the early-to-mid stages of a group’s lifespan: often a group of close-knit artists will eventually produce great stuff even in the later period of their career, but hardly the new releases will top their past glories.
On the other hand, one cannot deny the fact that several exceptions to this unwritten rule do exist: just think to metal giants Judas Priest, who released “Painkiller”, their universally recognized magnum opus, twenty years after the start of their journey in the world of music. If considered in these terms, slam legends Devourment could be seen as a modern equivalent of Judas Priest, although obviously in the brutal death metal scene. Indeed, twenty years after the release of their first full-length, the legendary and universally acclaimed “Molesting the Decapitated”, these Dallas metalheads come out with a release, the suitably named “Obscene Majesty”, that not only rivals, but even surpasses their already excellent magnum opus, and may as well be, from a critical point of view, the best album the slam scene has ever seen.
Devourment took the elements that made their early albums great, the same, infamous style they are the inventors of, and, giving it a more modern edge, crafted a 47-minutes long merciless assault, a real lesson in brutal death metal for the contemporaries and the bands to come alike, reclaiming once again the well-deserved crown of kings of slamming death. The key to the album’s success is the combination of relentless, devastating slam riffing and ferocious, technical drumming, a combo that will literally grind the listener’s bones throughout the whole duration of the full-length, but never resulting boring and keeping the wretched metalhead’s attention level high during each of the ten tracks the platter is made of. Add to the lot the most guttural and hellish vocals the world has ever seen, a putrid yet modern and perfectly fitting production, which allows each element to find its own space and complements it, and the result is nothing but flawless.
Now, slamming brutal death (or “slam”, if you will) is far from being the most approachable genre out there, and with this release Devourment once again display their uncompromising style in its purest and most bone-shattering incarnation: however, for those willing to venture forth in the most extreme realms of music, or for long-time fans of the style, this opus will inevitably result in pure eargasm. In case there were any newcomers out there, allow me to briefly explain what slamming brutal death consists in: this genre revolves around the use of “slam riffs”, a particular kind of riff composed of a succession of palm muted chords played on the lower strings, following a scale which can often be chromatic. The genre also usually employs really low guitar tunings, guttural vocals and devastating drumming, and all these elements are fully displayed and taken to the maximum potential in this release.
This kind of music is absolutely non-melodic, hence the necessity to revolve around a great rhytmic session to make it interesting and memorable, something which Devourment prove to be masters of. The precise, brutal and quite technical riffing (I can assure you that this stuff is REALLY exhausting for any guitarist’s left hand) makes great use of fantastic and heavy chord patterns, accompanied by pinch harmonics and crushing harmonic scrapes, played with unmatched violence and conviction. Here and there, we have also bends on the low strings, that furthertly enhance the brutality of the record. Each song is composed by at least a ton of slam riffs, with the occasional tremolo picking or gallop, and the band takes literally no prisoners, keeping things interesting with downtempos, sudden accelerations and syncopated rhythms that will make you praise in awe the insane skills and the ferocity of drummer Brad Fincher.
While the assault takes place, accompanied by vocalist Ruben Rosas’ violent regurgitation of gutturally-spewed forth, obscene lyrics, the band even takes the time to let the bass shine here and there, as seen in the fantastic “Cognitive Sedation Butchery”. In these terms, the insane production complements the music a lot, providing an incredibly distorted guitar tone, but letting every instrument and element breathe, thanks to the excellent mix. The songwriting here is the best these guys have ever penned: there are nothing less than three tracks surpassing the six-minutes mark, and each song displays a unique structure, keeping it weel-distinct from the rest of the platter and providing amazing rhythmic solutions (just think to the crushing opener or the incredible “Sculpted in Tyranny”, two of the platter’s highlights). Honestly, as a brutal death metal fan, I couldn’t have asked for more. The only possible “flaw” that comes to my mind is the duration of the album: each track is undeniably top notch and doesn’t drag even in the least, with no trace of fillers to be found, but almost fifty minutes of slamming death, all in the same package, may actually be too much for someone to digest.
Anyway, that’s a minor fault, and considering the fact that each of the songs could easily be featured among the genre’s best offering, I can tell you that the duration thing is not that big of a deal, especially after giving the album at least a couple of proper listens. What else should I say? 2019 is turning out to be a golden year for heavy music and metal in general, especially when it comes to its most extreme incarnations. Devourment have crafted a possible contender for the album of the year, and surely one of the top extreme metal releases of 2019, giving a true lesson in how slamming death should be appropriately executed, and taking back the crown of kings of their own niche. Highly recommended.