Gorgasm - Destined to Violate - (8/10)
Published on July 29, 2014
Way beyond br00tal def metuhl, brah.
It’s perhaps an oddball way to kick off a review of a death metal album, and I’m pretty damn sure this is the first and only time the names Nadine Gordimer and Gorgasm will feature side by side in the same article, but humor me for just a second. For those in the know – literary and politics geeks, I’m looking at you – Nadine Gordimer, famous South African writer and Nobel Laureate for literature, died July 13 at age 90. Her writings helped elucidate to the outside world the harsh realities brought to bear on South Africa, and South Africans, by decades of Apartheid. She was famous for applying Marxist theorist Antonio Gramsci’s concept of the interregnum to the SA context (specifically the period of mass uprisings in the 1980s that eventually led to the country’s liberation in 1994). The interregnum, in this context, refers to a limbo of sorts – a period of great upheaval in which the old order was dying but a new epoch had not yet been born. In her words, this period of uncertainty gave rise to “a great diversity of morbid symptoms.”
Looking at the creative and stylistic trajectory of death metal, I cannot help but note the relevance of the late Gordimer’s words. Of course death metal has never evolved along a linear line but it’s hard to argue that the genre doesn’t find itself in an interregnum of sorts. The old order has died. So many different creative avenues have been explored, from the pinpoint precision of Nile and Origin, to the feral black/death fusion of Behemoth, to the jarring explorations of atonality and dissonance by the likes of Pseudogod and Bölzer. With no clear indication of what would constitute a new era/order, the “morbid symptoms” of death metal’s interregnum manifest through the atavistic and oft haphazard reversion to the genre’s nascent days, with the primal rumblings of ancient Demigod, Incantation and Disembowelment providing a veritable oasis from which many of today’s practitioners seem all too happy to drink. The old is the new. Limbo. Stasis. Ossification.
Where does Indiana’s Gorgasm fit into this (morbid) equation? Well, they just keep doing their thing. A “thing” that, on paper at least, carries all the hallmarks of your average brutal death metal band: booming gurgled vocals, a fair bit of East Coast groove and slam, a smattering of pinch harmonies and lots of blasting. Hell, if anything, this particular strand of death metal has been stuck in creative limbo-land ever since the dying strains of Suffocation’s Effigies of the Forgotten but the devil is in the details, as they say, and in the case of Destined to Violate the details add up to something much more than your by-the-numbers death metal release. Granted, this album is in no way a watershed release for either band or genre, but, like fellow veterans Immolation, they have a knack for squeezing enough bite and variety out of their chosen style as possible. The overt slam/groove approach of their cult Stabwound Intercourse EP has given way to a sound that sits pretty comfortably between the technical and brutal ends of the spectrum and, as was the case with 2011’s Orgy of Murder, this thing is peppered with a shitload of melodies (by brutal death metal standards anyway).
Like the recently reformed Skinless, these guys churn out a well-balanced and multifarious brand of brutality that has one eye fixed on the past and the other on the future. To an untrained ear this will undoubtedly sound like every flash-in-the-pan brutal death metal album, but let me reiterate: the devil is the details. The vocals strike a delicious balance between Frank Mullen’s trademark low grunts and the raspier tendencies of Glen Benton back in the day, the production is downright excellent as it highlights both the rumbling low-end and more trebly side of things (with the vocals cutting nicely through both) and there is a playful edge to the songwriting. Instead of incessant blasting many songs go straight for the jugular before chucking in a requisite palm-muted breakdown and then wraps things up with a batch of melodies at the end. “Kuntkiller” (the original title of the album) is a prime example of this approach, darting back and forth between Suffocation-style blasting and soaring lead work (something that also works wonders on “Corpsified” and “Mouthful of Menstruation,” with the former featuring lethal groove-inducing bass runs and the latter slowing things down for some moshpit pain. In between you also have the typical pinch harmonies and percussive grunt approach of “Preserved for Pleasure” and the all-out fretboard mayhem of the title cut.
Cold-hearted elitists will no doubt bemoan the very melodic dynamic of the album, while others might scoff at the polished production job, but as far as I’m concerned this album represents not just the pinnacle of the band’s career (surprising, given that Damian “Tom” Leski is the sole remaining founding member) but also stands as one of the best albums of its kind in years. No, the irony of quoting the esteemed Gordimer in a review of a band that has given the world songs with titles like “Anal Skewer” and “Dirty Cunt Beatdown” is not lost on me, and my inexplicable inclusion of the late Nobel Laureate in this review is no doubt indicative of how difficult it is to contextualize a brutal death metal album in an intriguing way nowadays. But I digress; let me simply end off this long-winded review by saying that musicality trumps br00tality on this album, and for that they deserve kudos.