Tales of Grotesque Demise

What the hell is going on over in Indiana? Seriously, I can’t bring to mind anything notable about the Hoosier state, aside from one day a year when a bunch of the world’s finest racecar drivers go to press their lips against some disgusting bricks so they can go around a circle a billion times, all for the privilege to… drink a glass of milk? What a fucking prize. Fans will point to their favorite college and pro basketball teams but neither have been that relevant in a few decades and Jim Irsay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts, is a pill-popping wacko. I guess that can be exciting. I’ve met people from all over this goddamn planet, but I’m genuinely not sure I’ve ever met anyone from Indiana. How does that happen? Do you people ever leave?! I’m reading here that two of Indiana’s largest industries are corn, and popcorn. I’m sorry, but that just isn’t two separate industries. You have one. It’s corn. No wonder Mike Pence is the human equivalent of a bleached rice cake.

All this is to say that, aside from Larry Bird’s legendarily soul-crushing talent for shit talk, I can’t find any explanation for the state producing so much absolute filth lately (I of course mean that in the best way). Indiana thrashers Wraith and Graveripper have quickly become two of the finest modern examples of their genre with recent releases. Death Metal maniacs Obscene are doing everything they can to live up to their namesake. Also, Iced Earth is from here. That’s pretty gross  (I don’t mean that in the best way). And now entering the chat is one of my favorite straight-up, gnarly-as-hell Death Metal releases of the year, from Indiana’s very own Flesher. God damn this thing slaps.

Mastered by the legendary Dan Swano and adorned with the instantly recognizable, iconic artwork of the great Ed Repka, Tales of Grotesque Demise wears its filthy, disease-riddled heart proudly on its sleeve, as if the album cover’s main character ripped it out himself and stapled it to their arm. We may be living in a new golden age of cavernous, murky death metal led by the likes of Sanguisugabogg, Tomb Mold and Witch Vomit, and that’s all well and good! But Flesher is a big feather in the cap of proving an album can sound great, even fairly clean (in comparison to many others in this line of work), and still make you feel like you’re strapped to a table in the world’s most deranged abattoir while a dude wearing an apron made from 10 other dudes slowly walks toward you, meat cleaver in hand. I mean, that is very literally the album cover here. They captured the hell out of that shit, particularly on more mid-paced, menacing bruisers like “Creature Beast,” “The Gates” and “No Escape,” which plod along with a mix of simple, dead-set riffing and steady, relentless drumming that feel like the slow inevitability of a mudslide devastating everything in its path. The main riffs on the latter two tracks are some of the purest headbangers you’ll hear all year – nothing that’s going to blow you away with technical wizardry, but nevertheless overwhelm you with deliberate brute force. I could listen to them on repeat for the rest of time.


And that’s where we find the crux of Tales of Grotesque Demise’s genius – the simplicity in its delivery, which is becoming an apparent hallmark of the Indiana metal scene. I know I harp on it all the time, but something as good as what Flesher has delivered here doesn’t need to be dolled up. There’s one guitar, one bass, one drum kit, that’s it. All come through the mix clearly, and all are delivered with purpose and persistence. There’s no need to explain Dan Swano’s pedigree in the studio, but he, along with engineer/mixer Wes Heaton, make the brilliant decision here to just let this group of musicians speak for themselves – and it pays off with absolute bangers in a track like “Wisconsin” where the hardcore-inspired, chugging strings make their command to anyone who listens very clear: Bang your friggin’ head, and if in a position to do so, open up that god damn pit. There’s no ambiguity here. The rumbling churn of “Curse” doesn’t ask you to step back and ponder alternate universes, it doesn’t even ask you to contemplate the intricacies of life in this one. Like the classic greats of Obituary, Cannibal Corpse or even Bolt Thrower, this is just heavy, crush-bones-into-dust Death Metal for the singular sake of “because it’s fucking sick.” It’s that simple.

If there’s anywhere to complain, I guess (?) you could say the tracks that run much longer past the 4-minute mark really don’t NEED to be that long. Make no mistake, the offenders “Scroll of Thoth,” “No Escape” and closer “Flesher (We Kill You)” are all awesome, with the album’s swansong taking a little bit of time to meander with some neat atmospheric, 80’s-horror synth-wave elements, which can be appropriate for this kind of thing, but could have been used more briefly. Still, don’t let the listed 6:57 run time mislead you, as the track ends with a prolonged 2-minute soundscape of distorted voices and horror-themed sound effects before returning very briefly with some more of the track’s closing riff. I dunno, I guess it’s kind of a weird end to the album, but it’s just as easy to cut it off early if you want to move on with your life (or if you’re like me, want to get back to track one and start the fun all over again, which you will).

Listen, if what you want is something more adventurous or challenging with your daily dose of Death Metal, Flesher ain’t it. But they’re also not trying to be, either. This is a knuckle-dragging, head-bashing assault completely Neanderthal in nature, unspoiled and without pretension or irony. If all you want is really good fun on the cheap? I’m not sure you’re gonna find a better example than what Flesher has laid out here. If you want the filet mignon, there are plenty of bands out there to cater to your more refined palate, and that’s awesome – you do you, Rockefeller. If you you wanna gnaw on a rib bone of indiscriminate origin like a feral dog? Come get down in the dirt and get a piece of Flesher.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Steve K
September 20th, 2023


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