A little web research will tell you that many ‘diehard’ fans of DEVOURMENT weren’t exactly smitten by 2009’s “Unleash the Carnivore.” It was too hi-fi, too accessible, not slammy or underground enough, and so on and so forth. Well, sucks to be those obdurate fans now, because if they didn’t like what they heard then, then they’re going to really despise what they hear now in 2013.
And, just like in 2009, they’re going to be dead wrong.
Texan killing machine DEVOURMENT have returned to the slaughter with their fourth full-length album, “Conceived in Sewage,” a deeply infectious laceration of Brutal Death Metal that witnesses the band taking yet another step forward, out from the cesspool and onto dry land, lugging with them a strung-together bundle, congealed and bloated and lining the ground with the wasted tissue and bowels of a genre they helped to define and conquer.
The raging Guttural Slam of “Molesting the Decapitated” is all but a distant, semen-stained memory and, for many, the advent of “Butcher the Weak” served as the official harbinger of doom; an indication that the band were bound to do something different, to be something different, that DEVOURMENT were – gasp – poised to evolve and then, undoubtedly, sell out. Things progressed even further with the release of “Unleash the Carnivore,” one of the more thunderous and unrelenting Brutal Death Metal albums of the 2000s, and a record that’s not as far removed from “Butcher the Weak” as many would like to suggest.
So when were things supposed to have gone awry? Perhaps it was when Erik Park moved behind the kit or when Ruben Rosas stepped away from the microphone? Maybe it was when original guitarist D. Braxton Henry opted to take the reins of production or maybe it was the moment the band hit the ‘big time’ and signed a deal with Relapse Records? The truth of the matter is that it doesn’t matter. Rosas, Park, bassist Chris Andrews, and vocalist Mike Majewski are all back, and they’ve got one hell of a new album on their hands.
Recorded by Erik Rutan at the ever-reliable Mana Recording Studios, “Conceived in Sewage” harbors, first and foremost, the cleanest production of any of their past records, and for good reason: DEVOURMENT have developed into a more well-rounded Death Metal brute, replete with higher technicality, a greater focus on song-writing, and a militant aural-approach reminiscent of BOLT THROWER and the SKINLESS swansong, “Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead.”
As expected, the tandem riff-work of Rosas and Andrews is gigantic, although – like most bass performances in Death Metal – Andrews’s presence is certainly more palpable than it is audible. Additionally, Rosas seems to be at the top of his game, ignoring any social-call for solos or pronounced melody and manufacturing passages that should cater equally to fans of hard-charging Brutal Death (“Legalize Homicide”) as well as to the more groove-stringent Slam loons (“Parasitic Eruption”).
Unsurprisingly, Park is a behemoth on the drums, barreling ahead with his signature snare rolls, plodding double-bass marches, and a creative assortment of fills and cymbal crashes. He’s an engine, for sure, and his jazzy yet domineering drumming style is wickedly effective. Lastly, the performance of Majewski is just excellent. His vocal register has never been so varied – note the Corpsegrinder-like segment in “Legalize Homicide” – and aside from delivering his lines with great force and alarming clarity, his continued improvement as a depraved lyricist speaks volumes when keeping tabs on how efficient and syntactically tight he employs his words (“50 Ton War Machine”).
When pooling everything together – from Rosas’s malevolently catchy riffs to Majewski’s unexpectedly diverse vocals – it’s a simple task to cite “Conceived in Sewage” as the band’s most uniformly successful and memorable work.
A track like “Fucked with Rats,” with guest vocals by Travis Ryan of CATTLE DECAPITATION and MURDER CONSTRUCT fame, is a pummeling showcase that hears Rosas adding a queasy and quasi-playful bend to the main riff, and the album-titled “Conceived in Sewage,” with its Doomy opening passage and galloping structure, might be the most addictive four minutes the band has recorded. Be it the instrumental “March to Megiddo,” the enormous “Today We Die, Tomorrow We Kill,” or the thrashing and then slamming “Carved into Ecstasy,” the music found on “Conceived in Sewage” is about as forthcoming and destructive as fans could have possibly hoped for.
Whatever their exact style, DEVOURMENT have once again proven that they’re at the pinnacle of adrenalized, knuckle-busting, 100-pound dumbbell-curling Metal. “Conceived in Sewage,” so much like their other albums, is about playing heavy; it’s about not catering to what everyone expects them to sound like or to everyone who wished they had never changed; it’s an album that’s as much a step in the logical direction as it as a piece of calloused and uncompromising brutality.
(Online January 22, 2013)