I’ve been keeping tabs on DYING FETUS for some time now. Ever since their notable (and brilliant) 2002 release, “Destroy the Opposition,” the band has enjoyed a few ups and down’s, particularly relating to its production ethic and, to a lesser extent, its ever-alternating line-up. Their 2009 effort, “Descend into Depravity,” is very much what you’ve come to expect from the wary mind of John Gallagher, save for the fact that the band currently possesses its smallest line-up yet with a total of three members.
Worry not however, as “Descend into Depravity” is just as relentless as blasts from the past like “Killing on Adrenaline” or “Stop at Nothing,” albeit employing an even more technical approach as to what we’re used to. The first thing that came to mind however, particularly during more Thrash-esque tracks like “Shepard’s Commandment,” is the messiness of the production. Gone is the tightly restrained sound of classic DYING FETUS, and in its place remains the unhealthily distorted collage of instruments that plagued their previous album, “War of Attrition.” I can understand the desire of the band to produce its own work, but the mixing skills of Steve Carr are what made the golden era of the band truly golden.
The main annoyance here is that these mixing issues become even worse when the tempo rises. As already mentioned, “Descend into Depravity” makes heavy use of the blast beats and fret board wankery that came to crown the band with its ‘Technical Death’ label, which means much of the entire album suffers from this lack in quality. That’s not to say the band don’t slow things down a bit, as tracks like “Atrocious by Nature” and “Ethos of Coercion” supply plenty of groovy riffage. However, the riffs aren’t consistent in quality either, and throughout much of the album they feel bland and irritating. Trey Williams replacing Duane Timlin on the drums was a commendable step though, as the drummer’s performance is possibly the band’s greatest ever; particularly on “Conceived into Enslavement,” which may leave you wondering if Williams is some kind of peddle-legged cyborg-metronome.
It’s really a mixed effort which breeds equally mixed reactions. “Descend into Depravity” is certainly not DYING FETUS’s best release, but it’s not a black mark in their discography either. Anyone who felt that the band had lost their way with “War of Attrition” will most likely be disappointed here once again, but newcomers can certainly find something to appreciate. The problem lies chiefly in the recycled nature of Gallagher’s writing, which is beginning to lead the band onto a path of redundancy. Progression leads to rejuvenation and innovation. DYING FETUS need this if they plan to stand apart in the future.
(Online July 8, 2011)