French death metal act Offending has returned with its sophomore set Age of Perversion, and there are changes afoot. The band’s debut Human Concept was a vicious but musical platter of death metal. This time around Offending’s approach is comparatively laid-back. That is not to say that Age of Perversion is a light-weight affair; it’s a punishing record but Offending is not quite in such a hurry this time around. Whereas Human Concept crammed eleven songs into about forty-one-and-a-half minutes, Age of Perversion features only nine songs in about the same amount of time. Offending’s decision to stretch out a bit has had mostly positive results, and if one can abide a moderate reduction in brutality, Age of Perversion offers a rewarding listen.
Nowhere is Offending’s stylistic shift more apparent than on Age of Perversion’s opening track, “Infested By His Burden”. The song begins not with a blast beat assault, but with an unaccompanied guitar picking out a sullen, dissonant, melodic theme reminiscent of Immolation. The band develops this riff for the better part of two minutes before the track gets up to cruising speed. What then greets the listener are shards of glassy, high-end dissonance contrasted with simple, up-tempo low-end chugging. This balance of complexity and dissonance with simplicity and consonance is a key to the success of the track, and to the album as a whole. Offending will dazzle and confound eardrums, but they also present ample opportunity to bang one’s head.
Another key to Age of Perversion’s success is the precision of the band’s performance. Age of Perversion is a very busy multi-layered record; the tempos are frequently furious and the guitars are rarely playing the same parts, but almost every note is clearly audible (except the bass, of course – it’s a metal record after all). Offending might have initially been branded as brutal death metal, but on this record, the band is definitely displaying the chops and songwriting of a more technically-minded band. The performance is bolstered by a very complimentary production that provides just enough weight, while achieving excellent instrument separation.
In addition to excellent rhythm playing, the guitar team of Manu and Grapoil contributes some particularly heroic solos to the album. The leads are sparse and often brief (only a few seconds), but they offer a pleasant, melodic respite from Age of Perversion’s usual calculated chaos. Prime examples of this concise but effective style occur in “Within this World” (1:07), and “Dominion XXI” (1:03). “Modern Enslavement” and the closing instrumental “Devotion”, however, do feature some extended leads and the playing is just as tasty in larger doses.
With Age of Perversion, Offending has upped its game both technically and musically. These songs are unlikely to become metal anthems – such is the nature of complex death metal – but there is a level of thematic cohesion that makes them more than just a collection of catchy, memorable and challenging riffs. The changes to its sound might see Offending stripped of its “brutal death metal” badge, but a badge marked “quality death metal” will fit just as well in its place.