Generally speaking, “stupid” means “unintelligent,” and then again, I’ve also been known to use it as a superlative.
And sometimes, it works both ways, like when I say “Fluids is stupid heavy.”
This Arizona-based trio describes themselves as “troglodytic death metal,” so they’re wearing their dumbed-down simplicity proudly. (Thus, I don’t feel like I’m insulting them with the above comment.) Think Mortician levels of ignorant riffery, all low-tuned chunky guitars with blown-out filthy distorted tones, topped with furnace-blast bellowed gutturals. Pepper those tracks with electro-synth industrialized interludes overlaid with film samples from obscure documentaries about all sorts of morbid topics, and there, in the convergence of all those aspects, you have Fluids.
It’s not a particularly complicated formula. But it’s a damned heavy one.
Opening with one of their synth-based soundbite interludes — the suicide-note dialogue of “Genesis Spoiled” — Not Dark Yet gets off to an unsettling start immediately, as the narrator describes himself bleeding out, before the song’s main riff kicks in, a simple Godflesh-y chug, bleak and crushing, offset by inhuman drum programming and Brennan Westermeyer’s choking growl. Four subsequent songs stick to the same Mortician-on-steroids heaviness, with a mid-album break in the form of another interlude at the beginning of “Mercy Gelded.” Individual musical highlights are hard to pinpoint because almost all of Not Dark Yet blurs into one wall of oppressive crush, all machine-augmented blastbeats and gnarled guitars that sound like chainsaws playing the most simplistic chunky riffs imaginable, with the exception of the album’s final moments, the 8-minute closer “Humanity Reviled,” which winds itself into a coda that’s almost melodic, almost epic, almost doomy, and yet still stays within the parameters of troglodytic death metal.
Compared to 2019’s Exploitative Practices (which is the only other Fluids I’ve heard), Not Dark Yet presents both the logical extension of the formula and also a predictable staying of the course — troglodytes don’t progress, after all; it’s kind of in the job description. But even a trained monkey will get better at whatever task you assign him given enough practice, and Not Dark Yet is a more skilled take on the same basic set-up provided by Exploitative Practices. Aside from the doubled length of the song titles, the biggest difference is a change behind the mic, to Westermeyer from previous growler Cole Jacobsen. Jacobsen’s growl was a little less distinct, a little more cavernous, whereas Westermeyer’s is a more old-school, forceful guttural, and one I find more interesting. Still, even that transition is not a big one, and at the carved-out blood-dripping heart of the matter, Not Dark Yet is pretty much business as usual for Fluids. It’s half-organic, half-electronic, all dumbed-down, all heavy — thirty-six minutes of brutality and bleakness.
Sometimes it’s fun to be stupid.