The Anthropodermic Manuscript of Retribution

See album cover for review.  The end.

“Hey, dude that’s dismissive.  Drop the cynicism and do it right!”

Ok.  Sure.  Point taken.  “Don’t judge a book…”, “What you don’t know might surprise you”, etc.  Even if the cover of this “book” is as telling as Johnny Cash, the Autobiography by Johnny Cash.  The many tentacled horrid life form on the cover beacons us to heed the Manuscripts of Retribution so let’s dive into it’s living pages to find out whether or not Virulency is the key to unleashing incomprehensible knowledge, pestilence from ghastly realms, or a good album.

Taken straight from the copy, “Hailing from Spain, these guys specialize in intricate guttural ultra death metal brutality”.  Whooooaa! “Ultra death metal brutality”?!  For a subgenre that revels in and makes a contest out of ever increasing shows of disgusting covers, lyrics, guitar tone, and brain scrambling drumming that is a mighty claim.  If “Ultra brutal death metal” is a term we are using now it is one that would be reserved for an elite tier of bands.  A tier that would include card carrying members like Defeated Sanity, Wormed, Devourment, and others.  Bands that execute a mix of tectonic heaviness, technicality, and arrangement to create something that inspires repeated listens.  Like any genre there is a bottomless demon pit of arms, heads, severed breasts full of this stuff.  And also like any review the point is to guide you as to whether you should even take the time to sample at least 3 of their songs for no longer than 7 to 15 seconds each.  Because that’s what people do with limited time and this many bands.  Onward!

What initially lead me to presume there might something more worth exploring with this record is the pops of fretless bass briefly breaking through the high gain guitar chugging.  An element of some surprise on a ultra brutal death metal album.  It doesn’t rumble so much as transmutate from slow bending to rapid oscillation.   From what I hear, nudging the fader up a few hairs  on the bass in no way would have taken away from the guitars, only enhancing the dynamics of a solid album.  To be expected, the bass is heard best when hitting notes on the southern range of frets.  Each time it rears gives the listener a new point at which to latch onto and try to follow again as it subsides back behind the guitar.  Like Quint and crew on the Orca sighting for when Jaws’ fin breaks the water.  Aiming to fire the harpoon lead barrels hoping to pierce the sneaking beast and trace when it again dives beneath the red/black waves.  Just below the surface the obscured form that is the bass is observed darting and straifing, at times complementing the rhythm but just as often breaking off from the guitar, thrashing into open air and back below.   So goes the endless battle of the bassist in metal.  Highly skilled, wanting to make an impression by their chosen instrument, but sorely overshadowed or shrugged off entirely.   Keep fighting the fight bass players.

The other instruments fill the requisite rolls of such an album.  Extra heavy, high gain guitar is played with frequent rhythmic, semi-melodic punctuations of the familiar harmonic pinch/squeal technique as on the first 15 seconds of “Myriapod Constructology – Part II – Absolute Zenith”.  The drums flow nicely but don’t quite propel the music.  They blast and fill where expected.  The clicking double bass playing makes up for the more blended, round snare.  At times performing as a speeding conveyor belt on which the vocals and guitars tumble along.  The vocals are more throaty with an insect chirping edge.  Everything comes together in what I consider to be the standout track, “…From Putrescible To Perpetual” which features one of the few points that the fretless bass is given full spotlight.  Making a great artistic decision, DisJorge (ha, nice play)  instead of going for a wild technical display, winds the song down with long fret runs down and up the neck.  The effect of which sounds like the creature of the cover retreating in slime back into it’s interdimensional portal.

The other highlight worth mentioning is the outro built into final track “Sculptured Didelphic Uterus”.  When bands do the intro/outro/interlude thing right I make it a point to mention because the point of full length albums is to be a complete journey and these parts can be the connective tissue.  The last, short track morphs smoothly from raging clicks and chug into an atmospheric industrial number with a hulking, machine press beat and rhythmic guitar riff cycle.  This soundtracks a succession of life sounds starting with that of lust fueled sex moans fading on through the screams of a birthing mother, to cries of a newborn child and ending with a male voice repeating the same sentence.  Honestly I can’t tell what he’s saying but that doesn’t take away from the fact that this outro piece is one of the factors that make this work as an album.

Virulency doesn’t rise much further beyond the middle of the pack of current brutal death metal bands still…it manages to rise.  While it’s a really solid record it suffers from the same factor as that of most brutal death metal:  When listening from front to back the bludgeoning busyness turns into a soggy pile of anthropodermic books.  The ink from the pages running and blurring into undecipherable blotches.  It’s just what happens in this genre.  The fretless bass is the major case on which this review is built and why I would recommend fans of the genre to listen.  And while the fretless bass is colorful I don’t feel that it quite supports the accentuation of “ultra” nor entry into the high tier of previously mentioned bands.  It could rank on a year end list of only brutal death metal, between the 10th and 5th slot.  I will also be checking out other acts on the New Standard Elite label.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Mars Budziszewski
March 31st, 2016


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