You have to have a sense of humour when listening to Death Metal. For me, its impossible to listen to it without smiling as the inherent silliness of some of the bands is more than I can handle some times. Take Cannibal Corpse and their ludicrous song titles such as 'Hammer Smashed Face' or 'Followed Home And Killed' or the delightfully insane Deicide's 'Homage To Satan' and 'Dead By Dawn'. A lot of the old school Death Metal bands have their tongues implanted firmly in their cheeks.
Modern Death Metal has recently taken a more serious tone with European bands like Decapitated and Behemoth eschewing the random gore and violence for distinctly darker and disturbing lyrics set to the genre trademarks of syncopated rhythms and brutal riffs. While I enjoy these bands, I do sometimes think that Death Metal needs the tongue in cheek element to amplify the sheer over the top nature of the music.
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Imagine my delight when I received a copy of Aborted's new album, 'Global Flatline'. The Belgian Metallers have kept the traditional Death Metal insanity while firmly putting their own stamp on the proceedings.
Looking straight at the track list, you can see instantly what you're in for with track names like 'Fecal Forgery' and 'Expurgation Euphoria'. This is no dark, brooding album. Opening with the sounds of a heart monitor and a sinister public address, 'Omega Mortis' blends into the title track as the brutality gets underway.
What is instantly noticeable is that 'Global Flatline' doesn't sound like a regular Death Metal album. Sure, the machine gun riffs and drum beats are there, but the sound is different. The guitar tone from Eran Segal and Mike Wilson is razor sharp. The sound borders more on the likes of a thrash band rather than death. From the opening riff and pinch harmonics, it almost sounds like the opening of a Testament piece, before the traditional blast beats and trem picked riffs kick in fully.
The guitar work is, as you would expect, technical and intricate. The sheer amount of riffs crammed into each song is absolutely staggering. 'The Origin Of Disease' opens with a superb back beat riff before descending into a blur of rapidly picked notes which, if I'm honest, had me out of breath within about 40 seconds. Its fairly intense.
There's even some different, slower textures at play throughout the album. 'Coronary Reconstruction' has a slow lumbering middle section with a tasty, melodic guitar solo contrasting directly with the pulsating riffs the song starts out with. 'Of Scabs And Boils' descends into a half time stomp, resplendent with atmospheric lead guitar and huge chords.
A lot of people find the vocals in Death Metal hard work. Typically bands employ a low end grunt from their singers, the speed and tone of voice usually end up with inaudible lyrics that just rumble through the tracks. Aborted's Sven de Caluwé does things a little differently. He showcases a multitude of vocal techniques, from the traditional grunts to high end screeches passing by thrash style barked vocals. Nowhere is this more evident than on 'Vermicular, Obscene, Obese'.
While the jumping in styles can sometimes lead to an inconsistent feel to the songs (such as 'From A Tepid Whiff') it does add a level of clarity in some of the lyrics. Yes, there are times when you can hear what Sven has to say. Not that it makes much of a difference though, as with all Death Metal lyrics, they are brutal, violent and nonsensical in places. But hey, this is Death Metal, such things can be forgiven as long as the brutality is in the delivery.
I've listened to this album through three different sound systems and I'm afraid to say, I simply cannot hear the bass underneath everything else that is going on. J.B Van Dear Wal's bass is pretty much mixed out to me, which is a real shame as Death Metal bass players tend to be absolutely phenomenal musicians, just look at Alex Webster in Cannibal Corpse. This is a let down for me but these things to happen at the mixing stage, though I really wish they wouldn't.
What would a Death Metal band be without a shit-hot drummer? Nothing. Ever. Aborted pack a massive rhythmic punch with Ken Bedene. Take the delightfully titled 'Our Father, Who Art In Feces', Bedene jumps between regular double kick beats, furious blast beats and half time noodling just before the guitar solo.
There's plenty of flashy double kick trills and cymbal tomfoolery over the top of precise and solid drum work. 'Coronary Reconstruction' is a brilliant example of this, fast drums, massive fills but precise, on the note beats for the intricate guitar work to follow.
As with all Death Metal albums, 'Global Flatline' does suffer with sounding a bit samey as you work through the track list. This generally can't be helped as the constraints of the genre don't really allow for much experimentation. There are a few moments where they do play around with things. 'Expurgation Euphoria' features some light piano work at the beginning and end, the guitar solos tend to be more melodic and less shreddy than their contemporaries and like I mentioned above, the vocals get mixed up between different styles throughout. It still can be hard to pick each song out of a line up though.
'Global Flatline' is the sound of a band embracing the heritage of Death Metal while exercising their freedom to experiment, however little each experiment may be. But at the end of the day, for all the tweaks to the genre, its still brutal, it's still fast and Aborted will still kick your face in.
Isn't that what we all want from a good Death Metal band?
1. Omega Mortis
2. Global Flatline
3. The Origin Of Disease
4. Coronary Reconstruction
5. Fecal Forgery
6. Of Scabs And Boils
7. Vermicular, Obscene, Obese
8. Expurgation Euphoria
9. From A Tepid Whiff
10. The Kallinger Theory
11. Our Father, Who Art In Feces