Way back many decades ago when it was 2020, several bands managed to put out multiple high-quality releases that were a potent mix of full-lengths, EPs, live albums and who knows what else. In fact, my own best-of list included at least five artists that had released multiple items. Chances are pretty good that this increased flow of new music had something to with that brief period of time where the world was smart and aimed for lockdowns before those in charge decided haircuts were worth everyone breathing death into one another’s mouth, but I digress.
Part of what really helps Stillbirth separate from the pack is that they clearly do not take themselves very seriously. Please scroll back up and look at the album art that features a shark eating a man in a tidal wave, a rusty “VW” van running over zombies on a beach, a lady smoking a J with her yabbos hanging out the window and, most importantly, a goddamn terminator surfing on a crocodile way in the back. Also, this is their band photo from last year:
They’re wearing matching swim trunks, which, of course, they also sell. The brutal slam market that aims to be the grimmest, most violent and viscerally repulsive is all good, but any band that has an aura of hint-hint nudge-nudge say-no-more humor is going to grab this writer’s interest just a bit more. This German six-pack of party beasts has been slinging their brutal brews for two decades, so plenty of people must agree at this point.
Strain of Gods picks up right where Revive the Throne left off last year and that’s particularly true for three of the six tracks. It takes a grand total of 20 seconds for the first bass-bomb-backed slam to punch your ears on “Ultimum Exitium” and it closes with a bevy of alligator gurgles and pig squeals. “Surfers Paradise” pairs biting staccato patterns that’ll make you want to bark against a slower drawn-out riff that will prompt you to bang your head straight through your desk at work if you aren’t careful. Opening with pure speed in the form of some wily tremolos over relentless drumming, “Skinned by the Sun” also offers a borderline bellow-along stretch that I would surely partake in if I had any idea what was being said.
The other three songs boiling in the sun on this death beach offer little glimmers of Stillbirth stretching their sound and breaking out of the formula. “Double Fire Double Fun” opens with some didgeridoo reminiscent of Cryptopsy’s “Screams Go Unheard” before kicking into gear with a rather ominous guitar line. It still manages to open up to an isolated mid-paced riff coupled with a random sample before going full-tilt slam though, so the standard Unique Leader experience is still in play. “You Can’t Kill Us” bops into your ears with an infectious little bass line before unleashing an absolutely rollicking guitar lead, which immediately stands out against the backdrop of brutality. But brutal leads are supposed to be atonal, screeching, jagged piles of note barf aren’t they? Stillbirth says pish and also posh to you! That song also features a repeated vocal refrain that I’m pretty sure is roaring, “let’s get drunk” and I can certainly get on board with that.
The title track closer, however, pulls the most unexpected move of all. It starts with a rapid-fire batch of snare rolls and progresses to a moment of kicks firing off more beats than an AK-47 can shoot bullets, but then things get…pretty? All of a sudden the guitars get clean and the background is awash in the sounds of oceans and birds as if you were just transported to a luau. Yet again, they throw in a brief little jamming lead on the clean guitar. That relaxing prettiness lasts just long enough for you to forget what you’re listening to when all of a sudden Lukas Swiaczny comes gurgling in and Stillbirth batters you back to reality one last time.
If you’ve never listened to Stillbirth before, I actually think going back to last year’s Revive the Throne is the place to start. But, if you should be someone that prefers smaller sample sizes and a little more playfulness in your brutality, then Strain of Gods won’t steer you wrong.