Fetid – Steeping Corporeal Mess

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Die hard preorders come with authentic vomit bags and anti-septic solution.

Have you ever looked at an album’s art and instantly knew what you were going to get? Instances where a quick glance at a logo, band name, and cover coincided with you knowing you were going to enjoy every inch of what you’d be blaring on your speakers a minute later? Portland corpse-manglers Fetid pretty much tell you everything you need to know about them before you even hit the play button. Their music is exactly as caked in gunk and grime as you’d think from that winding tunnel of rotting matter, protruding bones and mummified corpses that comprises the cover art and it’s unbashedly fucking great. Yet beneath the layers of disease and uncleanliness there’s genuine craftsmanship that showcases excellent songwriting, versatile guitar work, and the ability to capture an atmosphere of raw uncleanliness currently unmatched this year. While this album is unfortunately on the short side at only five songs, every ounce of what made 2017’s Sentient Pile of Amorphous Rot demo has returned bigger, uglier, and heavier for a band delivering on the promise of a promising debut and cementing itself as a maelstrom of havoc and hellishness not to be slept on.

The simplest way to describe Fetid’s sound is that it’s a gigantic snowballing of the foulest and most primitive parts of early 90’s grind-influenced death metal into a singular hulking behemoth. It leans closer to the uglier early end of the Finnish scene with comparisons easily drawn to Demigod, Abhorrence, early Sentenced, Purtenance, demo era Amorphis, and groups like Sweden’s Crematory, Autopsy, Carcass, and Repulsion. The music of this three piece takes Clyle Lindstrom’s huge lumbering riffs and bulldozes them through a topsy-turvy landscape of charging tremolo brigades fragmenting into jutting doomed chords. They play off of this uneasy balance between sudden breaks of activity and tension with rushing streams of dense rhythm, kept massive and sonorous Chelseah Loh’s booming bass guitar, and occasionally lace it with those disjointed semi-atonal angular notes that the Finns loved so much. The Chris Reifert esque drumming from Jullian Rhea (who even partially resembles the old legend somewhat even down to his moustache and doubling on vocal duty) is also noteworthy with its smoothly executed tom rolls capping off many of the riffs and deliciously aggressive bursts of urgently chasing single foot blast beats, giving the proceedings a thunderous lower end intensity and satisfyingly throwback vibe. To cap it off, the huge and reverberating production job makes everything sound absolutely massive with a healthy smattering of reverb. The drums benefit particularly with a dense and fleshy impact while the guitar sounds simultaneously decrepit yet brilling with feral strength. Jullian’s vocals echo through this dense fog of putrefactive gassiness and his near indecipherable low rumblings fit in perfectly to the sheer swampiness that surrounds him, acting less of a leading voice and more of a textural weapon embedded into the ruthless onslaught. While it might not have the same raw character as the drumming or riffing, it does

Atavistic as it is, Steeping Corporeal Mess has unusually lengthy tracks with only two of falling under the six minute mark and containing a not insignificant number of tempo shifts, riff switch-ups, and differing segments in each song. While death metal revivalists combining the primitive with the grandiose isn’t new as bands such as Obliteration and Funebrarum have shown, most of them have had more overtly refined or even semi-progressive leanings. None of that is present here as Fetid retain a constant disdain for any sort of highbrow technique but it doesn’t stop them from viscerally ambitious songs.  Songs open straightforward riffing usually embedded with a particular theme but just as you start getting comfortable, vicious throw it through a meatgrinder of contrasting tempos and phrasings. The numerous riffs stem from them breaking apart and dissecting their predecessors as songs gradually morph through multiple chapters of alienating mutagenic changes, using sudden breaks within twisting carnage to re-centre songs when they’re on the verge of devolving into a shapeless mess whether with simple but immediately notable melodies or even headbangable crunchy riffing. While all of this being set within a domain of low-fidelity muddiness can make it blur together, Fetid go to great lengths to ensure an almost constant sense of themes being in motion and frequently mangled by their love of grind-style blasting interruption or breaking riffs into worming slower notes. Yet they always know how to keep their attention centred on a core set of ideas, each one a reiteration and progression of its predecessors and varying a set of tonal coordinates gradually into these large, expansive songs that are easy to simply get lost in as they are to carefully pick apart all that’s going on.

Where the album does falter is primarily in its awkward length. It feels too long to be an EP or demo but at the same time not quite at the length of an album. This is partially offset with the long songs that comprise it and having truckfuls of content crammed into each one but it’s a case of feeling like it ends leaving you wanting far more than you were already given. The tendency of the guitar work to blur into one another a bit also occasionally forced me to rewind here and there to make sure I didn’t miss something or check if I actually did hear that riff before or not. However on a purely musical front, the former doesn’t come into the equation and the latter is to an extent difficult to avoid with death metal this primordial. Fetid are another amazing example of a band being about as true to their roots as they could possibly get yet simultaneously avoiding any aping ideas from or offering flimsy tributes to their biggest influences. However once you look past those influences, the genuine creativity and expertise of the power trio that is Jullian, Chelsea, and Clyle shines through the unexpected yet refreshingly variety and intricacy of these five songs. It truly is a beast of their own design with each track being its own sickening tale of decomposition and bodily degradation that takes hapless listeners into the same horrifying realm its cover art portrays. Any death metal fan new or old could have a field day trying to figure out which sections remind them of which recently reissued demo or album but Steeping Corporeal Mess flows forth not to be remembered as retro nostalgia for a romanticized many never were a part of but a testament to the lasting strength of pure vomit-inducing nastiness.

Steeping Corporeal Mess drops on June 10th and you can preorder it here.

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