My ever-quotable associate Mr. Campbell once described Jungle Rot as “no one’s favorite death metal band,” and while I’m sure there’s someone somewhere who’d disprove that by claiming this Wisconsin outfit as The Best Evar, Jordan’s quote is nonetheless a fairly accurate not-so-backhanded insult of a summary. In their bare bones, knuckle-dragging approach, Jungle Rot pares death metal down to the basest possible level, stripping away any and all aspects of technicality, compositional complexity, or stylistic deviation. But though they’re defined by – and quite often derided for – that single-minded focus on caveman wallop and lunk-headed simplicity, in that same unrelenting dedication to a non-cerebral formula, there’s something respectable and sometimes, dare I say it, enjoyable. Sure, like Jordan said, they’re not the kind of band that it’s easy to be enthusiastic about – they push no boundaries, either internal or external; they’re seemingly content to release variations on a C-grade theme forever and for always. I wouldn’t call myself a fan by a long stretch, but I have to admit that Jungle Rot is kinda good at what they do, even if what they do is, even at its very best, average death metal.
Overly verbose vague defenses / dismissals notwithstanding, the facts are these: Jungle Rot makes the switch to oft-awful metalcore stalwart Victory Records for this one, the band’s sixth full-length. Victory isn’t exactly known for bringing out the best in their bands, and Jungle Rot isn’t exactly known for progressing, so the fact that Kill On Command manages to be a stouter and slightly more enjoyable effort than 2009’s Napalm-released What Horrors Await is something of a double surprise… even if the difference between this and what came before isn’t exactly leaps and bounds. If nothing else, the Rot benefits from what appears to be a bigger budget in the production department, as Kill sounds better than Horrors.
As you’d expect, Kill On Command is stylistically much the same as its predecessor, although it’s a bit better constructed, better realized, a bit more … well… a tiny bit more… better. (Even Jungle Rot‘s progress is generic.) The riffs hit a hair harder, sharpened by the improved production; really, the whole thing is just a simple mild improvement upon (or perhaps just a better execution of) the band’s well-worn approach. The songs are cut from the same cloth as all other Rotters; the performances are typically energetic and unremarkable; the band trudges and grooves and occasionally pummels, with their patent single-minded purpose to get the pit moving. In that manner, some tunes succeed, like the driving “Demoralized“ whilst others are only a step away and falter slightly through reliance upon slam-death cliché: like “Demoralized,” “Blood Ties” sports hardcore-esque backing vocals and a chugging breakdown the size of Wisconsin itself, and while it doesn’t totally suck, it’s certainly passé. Of course, if you’re listening to Jungle Rot looking for anything aside from outright cliché, you’re begging for disappointment anyway.
Qualitative babysteps forward aside, at the end of the day, however, Kill On Command is the same ol’ Jungle Rot – chugga-riffed death metal, neither amazing nor offensive, neither deep nor wide. As you’d expect, fans will love it; those heretofore uninterested in the swaggering simplistic death that these Wisconsinites have been peddling for decades will remain hereafter uninterested.