The New Classics: Dying Fetus – ‘Destroy the Opposition’


When weighing up my options of which album to cover for my first contribution to The New Classics feature I was pleasantly surprised by just how downright overwhelming the task of narrowing down a pivotal album to highlight. Not through any shortage of quality options, but rather the sheer magnitude of landmark and game changing albums that have dropped during a very fruitful post-millennium decade. Personally, when the year 2000 rolled around I was still in my late teens and on an upswing of discovery since breaking my extreme metal cherry a couple of years prior. Of course I had plenty of catching up to do as my appreciation for heavy metal took on an entirely new dimension, with one ear scouring the landmark early wave of extreme metal, and especially death metal’s storied past, while the other was planted in the (then) here and now.

by Luke Saunders

Anyway, to cut to the chase Dying Fetus were a key band for me personally in expanding my death metal horizons, particularly through the release of their landmark third album, Destroy the Opposition; an explosive album that featured the band at the peak of their powers and brought them a deserved new level of exposure and appreciation.

Formed in 1991, Maryland’s Dying Fetus had already garnered a solid degree of underground cred through their heavy involvement on the live circuit and fiercely determined attitude and work ethic towards their craft. Led by guitarist/vocalist/chief songwriter John Gallagher, Dying Fetus gained further underground exposure and momentum through the one-two punch of debut album Purification through Violence (1996) and the crushing follow-up, Killing on Adrenaline (1998). Following a line-up tweak (Sparky Voyles replaced Brian Latta on second guitar) and stopgap EP (Grotesque Impalement), Dying Fetus returned to Hit & Run studios with producer Steve Carr to record their third full-length album and Relapse Records debut, Destroy the Opposition in 2000.

 

Although there’s a fair argument that Killing on Adrenaline is the definitive Dying Fetus album and a classic in its own right, Destroy the Opposition took all that was great about its predecessor and enhanced and refined it into an unstoppable 36 minute blast of death metal perfection. Without diluting their sound or losing any of their hardworking underground grit, Dying Fetus took their music to a sophisticated new level in conjuring up a tight compact package of brutal, technical, slammy and endlessly catchy death metal.  Purely from a technical standpoint Destroy the Opposition was a finely crafted display of densely complex guitar work, intricate rhythmic power plays and stop-on-a-dime time changes, but if detached from actual songs it could easily have resulted in just another tech-death wankfest. Instead Gallagher and co emphasized a catchy groove-based approach, interwoven into structures that were anything but simplistic or one-dimensional. Thus creating a supreme balance of compositional and musical skill coupled with memorable hooks, tough catchy grooves, and trademark breakdowns, so expertly defined on tracks like the monumental title track.

The underlying hardcore influence and ramping up of Netherton’s fierce socio-political lyrics brought an increased depth and intelligence to the calculated brutality featured across the eight deftly executed compositions, without ever betraying their dominant death metal roots. As Gallagher explains, “the elements of hardcore and groove gave the album a bit of its own identity and separation from the popular death metal bands of the time”. He goes on to cite elements of technical death metal, slam, hardcore, rap and thrash as combined influences at the time of the album’s conception. Like any classic album Destroy the Opposition maintains a high standard from start to finish, from the technical wizardry and impeccable craftsmanship of opener “Praise the Lord (Opium of the Masses)”, featuring the endearingly monstrous breakdown/groove at the 2:25 minute mark; to the hard-edged grooves and blasting punctuations of closing track “Justifiable Homicide”.  Each track was an identifiable sum of the album’s multi-faceted parts, making for a structurally unpredictable yet cohesive listen, where the fat mid-tempo grooves and rap-like vocal trade-offs of “Epidemic of Hate” sits comfortably alongside the frantic beatdown of “Pissing in the Mainstream” during the album’s punishing mid-section.

Much was made of the sudden disintegration of the line-up in the wake of Destroy the Opposition, but Gallagher says, “despite what anyone may think the recording process was amicable and came together solidly”. Certainly the top notch performances speak of a band at the top of their game and meshing incredibly well as a unit, while the improved production played a strong role in capturing the intricacies of the album through a crisp, heavy and organic sonic vessel.  Drummer Kevin Talley has since, understandably, followed the money trail and hit the auto pilot button in his later works as a hired gun, but during his time hitting the skins with Dying Fetus the man was at the peak of his craft. His endlessly inventive, technical, blisteringly fast and tastefully groove-based drumming not only provided the album’s powerhouse backbone but frequently demanded the limelight as well.

Meanwhile the guitar work of Gallagher and Voyles was and remains a marvel of technical proficiency and infectious riffcraft, with the duo largely responsible for the instantly catchy and memorable moments scattered throughout the album, shifting between lightning fast fretboard shredding, intricate trade-offs (such as the stunning mid-song interplay on “For Us or against Us”), and an abundance of groovy slam riffs. Another key aspect that haslong separated Dying Fetus from the death metal pack has been their unique vocal approach.  Here Netherton’s vicious mid-range barks contrast with tremendous impact to Gallagher’s trademark guttural burps, forming an impressive two prong vocal attack that remains a focal point to the band’s current sound. And throughout Destroy the Opposition, Netherton’s final outing with the band, the combination never sounded more potent and convincing.

The enduring legacy and influence of Destroy the Opposition cannot be understated in today’s modern death metal landscape, particularly within the technical death, slam and deathcore scenes.  A remarkable achievement, Destroy the Opposition sounds as fresh and exciting today as it did in the nearly 15 years since its initial release. Which brings us to the old cliché, with the benefit of hindsight, would Gallagher change anything about Destroy the Opposition today? In which he simply states, “I wouldn’t change a thing”.

 

Comments

  1. Commented by: theorifice

    I punched my first kittens to Destroy the Opposition!

    Seriously though. This album changed the way I viewed death metal and really highlighted that you could convincingly do it all (shred, groove, blast, breakdown, thrash, burp) with tight performances and well thought out song structures.


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