Have you guys heard about the new restaurant on the moon? The food is good, but there’s no atmosphere.
But seriously, folks… If you’d like to take my alleged joke and let me stretch it further past its breaking point while we both pretend that it’s a good lead-in to a heavy metal album review — and why wouldn’t you want to do that, really? At this point, we’re committed to it — then I should absolutely mention that the criticism contained within what passes for a punchline up there is not at all a criticism that could be leveled at The Grotesque Arena.
Though there are some moments of downtempo heaviness, for the most part, the doom component of Feculent’s doom / death is achieved not through tempo but through a heavy reliance upon atmosphere, or perhaps more accurately, through a reliance upon heavy atmosphere. However you’d like to look at it, really. Feculent’s doom is more that they manage to convey a vibe of actual rotten fetid doom versus, say, the dour sadness that sometimes fills that role. Throughout The Grotesque Arena’s six songs and nineteen minutes, there’s a nearly tangible feeling of gloom and ickiness, a triggering of an emotional response that many bands would do well to better grasp.
These six songs themselves are, as mentioned, pretty straightforward gnarly death metal numbers — cavernous gutturals, guitar tones that are both sharp and crusty, some dissonant riffs and some tremolo riffs and some chunky palm-muted crunchy ones, skull-cracking jackhammer drums… Those are all the usual components, but here they’re assembled with ample skill and professionalism, and then also, a more-than-sizeable dose of un-moon-like atmosphere. The title track is split into two parts, one each opening and closing the album, and that opener blasts out of the gate with a vicious dissonance that’s almost black-ish in its malevolence. The bouncy riff that kicks off “Host Consumed” would be almost goddamn jaunty, if it didn’t lead into a woozier following part with a nearly sickly half-step slide that’s simple and yet perfect and somewhat disconcerting. Another of The Grotesque Arena’s doom-tempo moments hits with the intro to “Beneath Bedlam,” which keeps that hateful energy whilst slowing down to a pained-lumber pace, before the second half of the titular track brings it all to a close.
At the end of the day, none of these building blocks are anything particularly unique, but Feculent combines them in a manner that matters, and there’s a certainly rotten component to it all that adds an additional layer of depth. Made up of members of Shackles, Resin Tomb, Snorlax, and others, their combined experience clearly counts, and they’ve created a wonderfully wretched little monster here, and that’s not a dumb joke.