[Cover artwork by Chase Slaker (Mortiferum, Caustic Wound)]
Hello. You can now buy an LP copy of Severed Survival at Walmart.
Is that even shocking at this point? In all honesty, Mental Funeral might be a better fit, seeing as how the chances seem equally as likely you’ll find it and an individual who looks exactly like the cuddly creature adorning its wonderful cover roaming the frozen food section at any one of your local 10 or 30 Walmarts.
“Hey, I just saw a selfie of you over in the music section while looking for the new Avril Lavigne album! Neat. Anywho… Healthy Choice Beef-inspired Teriyaki, eh? Nice.”
Yes, death metal is very absolutely everywhere right now. One of the leading side effects of Lunesta is currently Defeated Sanity; the pastor down at the Church of What’s Happenin’ Now wears an Altars of Madness longsleeve under his smock; the masked singer is indeed George Corpsegrinder Fisher; and there’s probably a tiny death metal band in your mailbox RIGHT NOW working on a new song called “Junk Male Castration.”
The good news: Death metal rules, so we can all scarf it down like Steven Seagal packing down Salisbury steak after Salisbury steak over at… Whatever Russia has in place of Golden Corral’s endless buffet. Golden Gulag’s interminable trough?
The bad news: Too much of anything is never a great idea, and it’s not easy for any one band to stand out when 90% of the class these days is actively hovering over Chris Reifert circa ’89-’91 in an effort to copy all his answers.
Still, it sure is easy to complain during times of excess. Thrust me into an age where only a handful of bands seem concerned about shoveling grave dirt down my throat and I very well might grouse about the lack cavernous OSDM heroes afoot. Do the other animals fortunate enough to have been saved by Noah and his blessed ark complain as much as we humans seem to? Who the hell knows.
So, you’ve got the riffs, you’ve got the charming decay, you’ve got the foul whiff capable of capsizing a charging silverback, yes? How do you guarantee you’ll stand out when stacked next to umpteen other putrid ghouls similarly vying for diseased admiration in the modern age? If you’re Morbific, which I hope you are (“Are you Morbific,” asked Thomas Warrior), you make sure your new record sounds as if it’s gurgling and seeping from one of Earth’s more unfavorable orifices—like, the full journey of that unfortunate spew, from the roiling and gurgling in Earth’s gut to the muted wails in her struggling entrails to the final upchucked birth upon her hapless surface.
In a word, Squirm Beyond the Mortal Realm sounds positively awful, but in a strangely magical way the serves the the record in the best way possible. I’m not sure who’s responsible for the production here, but I’m guessing: 1) they grew up in a sewer, eating whatever they could scrape off the walls, and 2) said entity’s ears are clogged with gangrenous seepage. I very honestly thought I’d done something terribly wrong with an equalizer somewhere once the album actually kicked in after a cool and atmospheric 30-second intro. That opener, the album’s title track, hits the ears like it’s being played on a crushed Teddy Ruxpin doll decaying in a landfill for the last 30 years. The guitars whir like a struggling weed wacker forced under water, and the bass is drop-tuned to a level that could serve as a mating call for a dormant, rotting woolly mammoth stinking up the Earth’s core. Smell that romance in the air, Romeo?
Is… Is that riff breakout at 2:30 being transmitted all the way from Uranus? From Zeus’s anus? And the lead that immediately follows sounds like loose guts happily playing in mottled blood. It’s all just so… irresponsibly appalling. But take away that overall tone and the record loses half its enchantment—like Brundlefly without Cronenberg’s emphasis on viscous acid vomit. That terrifically malaised production makes the band’s doomier face feel all the more foul, and it gives the faster numbers an even more misshapen sense. “Meth Mansion Murders,” for example, which hustles from the jump with abnormally thin drums merrily slapping alongside the riffing’s punky sputtering. Then, just after the 1-minute mark, the bass blows in like a 300lb fly attempting a six-point landing on a dead water buffalo.
It’s all repulsive, the full 38 minutes. And fortunately, Squirm Beyond the Mortal Realm doesn’t overstay its welcome, either. You get just enough ranking odor, slipshod hustling, and horrendously unfit soloing any one condemned soul could possibly hope to handle in one sitting. It’s a calculated step in a direction that’s so unbelievably wrong, it ends up feeling splendidly right. My guess is you’ll walk away from this disgusting injustice to tunefulness with two principal understandings: Morbific is very much unwell, and not all artwork is created with the intention of hanging on the walls of some Hall Of Fame art gallery… Unless that art happens to be hurled upon those walls with a gloriously loathsome splat.