Musically, at least, Kyrylo Stefanskyi is having a hell of a year.
The latest Pharmacist is still riding strong in the upper reaches of my 2022 stack, buoyed by a seemingly endless supply of catchy riffs, a rollicking sense of gleeful spirit, and Andrew Lee’s sweetsweetsweet guest-appearance guitar leads. Now, just a few short months later, we grateful grinders are gifted with a second Stefanskyi release in the form of this Anatomical Amusements album, the wonderfully titled Corporal Kaleidoscope.
Corporal Kaleidoscope also serves as something of a missing link between the tail end of Crash Syndrom and the rise of Pharmacist. Compared to Crash Syndrom’s catalog outside of 2020’s Encyclopedia Of Putrefactive Anomalies (their most recent release to date), Corporal Kaleidoscope is more refined, more articulated, hewing closer to earlier Pharmacist’s Symphonies Of Sickness worship than the noisier earlier efforts. These songs are of a much more death/grind style than pure-bred grindcore, more structured and developed well beyond the short-sharp-burst songwriting approach. Like most of Pharmacist’s songs, Anatomical Amusement’s compositions are lengthy: Five of these six top 5:00, and at 10:00 on the severed nose, Kaleidoscope’s final track “Close The Chapter – Farewell In Crematory Stoves” is by itself as long as the first ten tracks on Crash Syndrom’s sole full-length. But like Pharmacist’s songs, when the tracks are as stuffed full of strong riffs and interesting changes as these are, there’s no time to get bored.
The lone shorter number, opener “Decay Fever” is something of a decoy – or at the very least, a deviation. That particular track is the grindiest on hand, a bashing two-minute bruiser built upon pinch squeal harmonics and choppy blasting, with a flair for technicality and a dissonance that doesn’t carry over into the remainder of Kaleidoscope. It’s also the home of the first of the album’s scant few soundbites, only adding to the more traditional goregrind feel before Kaleidoscope takes a slight turn and the death/grind fully takes hold.
By the second song, the stellar “Fatal Scenarios,” Corporal Kaleidoscope truly takes shape. From the first-class melodic Heartwork-esque riff that opens it through to the first-class twisting and chunky thrashy riff that defines its second half, “Scenarios” is a beautifully burly beast. A nice melodic guitar lead cuts through the halfway point of the equally blistering “Suppurative Fugues And Purulent Etudes,” once again performed by a guest musician, this time Chuck Jenga of Korean deathsters Fecundation. (Jenga is no slouch on the guitar, for sure, but his work here is still overshadowed by Andrew Lee’s dominance on the new Pharmacist.) “Cadaverisms” builds upon a slow and chunky riff through a perfectly placed pinch harmonic and settling into a swaggering midtempo steamroller drive, leading into that ten-minute closing track to wrap up Kaleidoscope’s second half.
The Pharmacist comparison is inevitable and unavoidable, but it’s also a bit unfair – goregrind isn’t a hugely wide sub-genre in general, and so it’s little surprise that Anatomical Amusements sounds like Pharmacist, even if it wasn’t the same creative core. For the dedicated listener, there are enough subtle differences between this and Pharmacist’s work – those pinch squeals, a rawer edge to the riffing, and so forth – but they’re both still clearly cut from similar cadavers. What’s most important is not the stylistic juxtaposition but rather the qualitative one, the impressive fact that Kyrylo Stefanskyi and his cast of collaborators have released two albums as strong as both Flourishing Extremities On Unspoiled Mental Grounds and Corporal Kaleidoscope in the span of a few months. One’s a hair more polished; the other the same hair more raw; both are surgical riff-fests with some of the catchiest bloodsoaked death/grind 2022 has to offer. Which one is better? My money is still on Pharmacist, but there’s no wrong answer: Choose your weapon, scalpel or bonesaw. Make the first cut, and just let the blood flow.