Back in 2017 Fetid came on the scene with a demo entitled Sentient Pile of Amorphous Rot. Fans of sewer-originated death metal flocked to the internet to order cassettes of this absolutely putrid little demo. Yet for all it lacked in stature it more than made up for in performance. Rough production did a piss poor job of hiding the band’s immense potential. As they ripped through those four tracks – vocals gurgling, synthesizers and drum machines popping – a vision of what the future could hold began to take shape. Clubs full of smelly, hairy cave-dwelling folks with their long, curly back hair perfectly teased for the occasion dotted the tours that would be undertaken in Fetid’s future. The stench, rife with body odor and underscored by a hint of vinegar (or is that rotting fish?), came to life through the speakers. It was magical.
With one ear always to the underground, 20 Buck Spin quickly snapped up Fetid (their demo was put out by the unfailing Headsplit Records) swelling their already well-stocked ranks of putrescent death metal. Budget increased. They received the full complement of production typically afforded bands of their ilk. They received cover artwork that would make devotees of X-Files “Monster of the Week” series squirm recalling human-fish hybrid, sewer dwelling parasites. And thus, with the shelves of their cupboards lined with all the tools needed for a band to ascend to the upper echelon of gory, sludgy death metal Fetid set out to make their debut LP.
It’s an odd thing that cleaning up the production and using more finances and resources to produce the art as a whole can somehow be a bad thing. Society is capitalist and the more money you have the better you are as a person and the more people will respect you. Turns out that this long held principle of capitalist culture isn’t a universal truth and Fetid is a prime example of that fallacy. Punk ethics, DIY attitudes, and dropping your master tape in the mud and running it over several times with a garbage truck actually produces some of the best gory, sludgy, sewage soaked death metal.
The drums are deep, cavernous even. There is an endless section of toms—each one slightly deeper than its predecessor. Double bass thunders like hoof beats of a strong mare connecting with the brittle sternum of an adolescent boy. The cymbals, used sparingly, ring true and clean, lightening the mood albeit for a brief moment. But mostly the rhythms are pummeling affairs of tom rolls unleashing waves of PTSD in anyone that was once caught on the business end of an automatic grenade launcher.
The vocals are of the bowels: low growls kept muffled in the mix, intertwined with any bass or guitar that finds its way into the depths of this guttural range. Lyrics are barked rhythmically, at times coming dangerously and deliciously close to what could be loosely considered a rap attack. But again, when compared to the demo, the vocals, even when drenched in reverb, seem lifeless. Not the enthusiastic leader they could be but rather a passenger enslaved by the ferocious rhythms that have assumed the job of cavalry commander.
Guitars, handled by Clyle Lindstrom (Caustic Wound, Cerebral Rot), who also shares vocal duties, shine on “Consumed Periphery.” Vacillating between so deep and bombastic and buzzsaw-like efficiency he even throws a few pick dives, whammy screams and technical solos in there. All while holding down the slow-paced riff game.
Holding down the rhythm section is bassist Chelsea Loh (also of Cauterized) along with drummer/vocalist Julian Rhea. Their chemistry is readily apparent with the bass never seeming out of place or showy but merely doing what is impossible for many bassists—to assist, support, and enhance without getting in the way. Particularly on “Dripping Subtepidity,” the bass work shines, holding down the lower riffs while guitar lines spiral into chaos. The ability to groove is one of Fetid’s main selling points, and much of that is thanks to the bass work.
The synth skills are once again on full display for the closing track “Draped in What Was” (a fitting title for a synth sound that was very popular about 35 years ago). This time no drum machine punctuates the eerie tones. The rhythm is kept by a pulsating synth while baritone keys pump a bass line beneath and more whimsical melody lines are layered over the top. The effect is a pronounced, dated mood befitting all the best campy horror films of Ti West. Again, Fetid makes the choice of using the synth as an intro for a track rather than simply an interlude on its own. While that tidbit certainly isn’t pronounced or even noticeable, it is worth mentioning as it’s indicative of a more modern take on synthetic death metal passages. It is also worth mentioning that the passage has no impact, effect, or connection to the track into which it is dumped.
Don’t get it twisted. Steeping Corporeal Mess is damn solid death metal. In fact, in a year relatively bereft of quality death metal – a massive change from the prior three years – Fetid stands tall, making the Pacific Northwest scene proud. The band will do very well touring Europe where they might not even have sewers yet. It’s just that Sentient Pile of Amorphous Rot was that good that the debut LP warranted exceedingly high expectations that simply weren’t met. Spin it. Love it. But keep your eyes to the horizon and hope that whatever they do next harkens back to their brilliant coming out party.