Cellblock Autopsy
Fertile Soil of Immortality

Thank you to the SBDC (Slamming Brutal Deathmetal Community) Instagram for this discovery.  Their label and promotion account is regularly posting the newest brutal death metal.  As much as I like the genre a ton of the stuff I see is rather indistinguishable from the next.  Maybe 1 in 50 has either a unique take that gets the whole package right or at least does the formula justice.

The album art being the first thing I see, of course, I was immediately piqued seeing that of Fertile Soil of Immorality.  The color palette of red against the neutral cell walls.  The art style is reminiscent of the air-brushed shirts I recall seeing at the Mexican flea market we’d go to when I was a kid.  The menacing figures: a prisoner under a shroud of an executioner hood blocking the door, head in hand.  A possibly MS-13(?) affiliated figure, crouched over his thoroughly stabbed up rival, glaring outward as if the viewer is about to be next if they say any damn thing about it.  The band logo is stark, and hard as hell.  Almost in-between that of a death metal and beatdown hardcore style.  The blood dripping title on the wall.  It’s the wildly ‘ignorant’ death metal album art of my dreams.  I felt so strongly that before I checked out the first track on YouTube I had a tinge of anxiety; what if the music doesn’t hold up to the art… I’d be severely bummed.

I chose the interestingly titled “Ambient Passages of Despair”.  My immediate reaction:  clearly programmed drums…but will they work well?  The intro riff comes in.  Ok, we are groovin.’  I can picture walking down the third level cell block corridor, survival weighing on my mind.  Last and in NO way least, what if the vocals are really garbage thin inhales.  Another breaking factor..  The vocals come in.  Aaaaaaaaand…They are siiiiick!  Course, textured, low slung, bottom of the lower intestine gutturals.  Sounding somewhere between Erik Lindmark circa Path of the Weakening and Reduced To Ashes, and the low croaks of Joe Paoline on Mortal Decay’s Forensic.  Exactly the style of guttural that will endear a brutal death metal band to me over any others, regardless of the riffs.  Everything about this is my lane of death metal.

Now I need to know more about who’s in this band, and where I can order a physical copy.  Well, dear readers, Cell Block Autopsy proved somewhat darkly mysterious.  The label webstore and Instagram don’t acknowledge the release.  Even though the label put it up on it’s own Youtube account.  Odd.  Subsequently, I switch to search for some information on who exactly is behind the assumed to be a one-man project.  Naturally, I’m headed to Metal Archives.  The band and album Metal Archives page’s are sparse, only noting New Mexico as the location.  No members are listed even.  Alright… next the Bandcamp page is similarly sparse save for the two-line description, the second of which notes “Coming from the ash of Discharge by Death”.  A clue!  Discharge by Death must be the creators’ former band.  I find it on bandcamp and listened.  Definitely sounds like it came from the same mind.  Certainly, the same guitar player/songwriter was behind the band.  Pulling up the Discharge by Death Metal Archives page I’m met with a wild paragraph, a tabloid, detailing that all the members are in prison.  Two serving LIFE bids in prison for first-degree murder.

Whoooooa.  Ok…

After a bit more Google gymnastics it’s apparent that Cellblock Autopsy is the solo output of a Larry “Torch” Lyanna, possibly serving a life sentence.  A 2010 interview with Torch, by Putrefactive Effect Zine confirms he is in fact serving a life sentence at a New Mexico prison.  According to the interview, and Discharge by Death bio, the victim was attempting to rape a 13 year old girl.  One or both of the defendants intervened, killing the victim with a hammer and disposing of the body.  No edgy gimmick here.  “Discharge by Death” is a term and disposition in prison that indicates the status of a deceased inmate.  “Cell Block Autopsy”, is an obvious prison reference. Mystery solved I’d say.

For a man behind bars, Torch has been incredibly active in death metal.  Having created the cover art for several death metal albums over the years in addition to releasing at least one album, as well as perhaps this one.  It’s fascinating to read that the New Mexico prison affords inmates the privilege of instruments, and practice space, and means to record.  Torch indicates that he is up for a parole hearing after 30 years, having already served 19 at the time of the interview.  Doing the math Torch is possibly out on parole as of this writing.  Perhaps he was able to record this on the outside.  I’d be extremely interested in an update on his situation.

Over repeated listens I am pleasantly surprised at the quality of riffs and songwriting considering the first impression one might get from the cover and name.  Riffs that both set a mood, and bring the ruckus.  Take for example the dramatic, sickly riff starting at 1:34 in “Fertile Soil of Immortality”.  This transitions to a short rhythmic chugging part with vocals, into a sorrowful harmonic passage, back into bdm chug.  There’s a pleasant familiarity that near perfectly recalls the more brutal offerings of the 90s.  Unsurprising considering Torch is of that generation.  It’s also crawling with the flare of good old-fashioned metal solo’s.  Often neglected by new slam bands, or if they are there present, can be rather formulaic progressions. The solo’s here are equally melodic and sinister, adding so much to the high blood pressure tension of prison existence that the album reinforces.  There are even a few really nice acoustic features to balance the rough stuff.

The only detraction to this chronicle of solitary confinement psychosis is some of the recording fidelity.  Like lines of a barbed wire armband tattoo, the recording mix is damn thin.  The guitar and bass could believably have been recorded on a cell phone, straight up.  However, to compensate I found jacking up the bass and mids 50% from the center is enough to give the record the missing meat.  So before you even give it the first arm-crossed sample listen and pass judgment, adjust the eq of your stereo or device.  I think the content outweighs the thin sound  Despite what may be a glaring issue for many it can be easily remedied.  With that adjustment, Fertile Soil of Immorality is a homicidal journey of better than it has a right to be written, Texas adjacent, ratchet as f*sck, grooving brutal death metal.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Mars Budziszewski
August 4th, 2022

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