Infesticide – Envenoming Wounds
Morbid Massacres from Mexican Maniacs
Death metal is enormous now; this is a fact that none can deny. From Blood Incantation and Gorguts to Outer Heaven and Gatecreeper, the genre has reached a level of peak popularity not seen since the early ’90s. For some this is a new golden age for the genre but in other corners a more skeptical attitude is commonplace. This does not even come just from fans of other genres such as heavy metal or black metal but from within the sprawling catacombs of the genre.
Just like with thrash metal in the late ’80s following the post-Reign in Blood/Master of Puppets explosion, a common criticism is that this massive boom isn’t necessarily representing the genre at its best but rather at its most bloated, lazy, and pandering. Some would go so far as to claim that it is death metal but primarily portrayed by fans of grind or punk and subsequently tied to the failings of those genres.
Whether or not this is true is ambiguous and there are few easy answers that explain its current state but this year there has been a spate of bands who seem to almost be a response to this perceived dilution of the idea of old school death metal. Coffin Curse, Omegavortex, Thirsty Demon, Malicious (Finland), Ominovs, Hyperdontia, Ascended Dead, Evil Priest, and Avlivad among others represent a kind of death metal that has little to do with the so-called caveman style and arguably sound even more old school, often referring to a time when death metal had only just separated itself from its thrash roots and had emerged into the crowded late ’80s landscape screeching, tearing, and ripping as it struggled to be heard underneath the coincidentally crowded world of metal as a whole.
It is from this wave of tenacity that Mexicans Infesticide enter the picture and bring with them one of the year’s finest accounts of unabashed red-eyed savagery; the perfect antidote to self-indulgent murk, slow-paced plod-chug, semi-cavernous meandering, and tedious tongue-in-cheek irony.
Infesticide dates back to 2012 when they were more of a thrash band by the name of Inherited, playing a kind of Kreator, Dark Angel, and Slayer reminiscent kind of metal that was the direct predecessor to much of the original death metal bands. While the music was very naïve and frequently less then professional (particularly in the vocal department), you could hear the first fragments of what would turn into the Necrovore, Possessed, and Morbid Angel stylings that ensued with their change of name in 2013.
2014’s Skills to Eviscerate showcased heightened aggression and a more creative if somewhat unwieldy approach to songwriting beyond the trappings of thrash. Two years later and they tightened up considerably for Death’s Formulas Fatal. While it was unabashedly American as opposed to the half American half European combo that defined most Mexican death metal (ie. Cenotaph, The Chasm, Denial, Necroccultus, etc.), it wasn’t much like the bands who came about with the solidification of the early ’90s such as Deicide, Malevolent Creation, or Monstrosity. Instead, it invoked the spirit of Altars of Madness, Divuus de Mortuus, Seven Churches, the Exmortis demos, God Died on His Knees, and other examples of the genre’s most primordial and savage practitioners.
There was little use of easily nodded-along grooves, heavy riff-obscuring reverb, catchy d-beat sections, drawn-out doomy sections and so on that are commonplace today. In the place of these is a stripped-down return to death metal fundamentals directly evolved from the extreme end of thrash. This is something that has not fundamentally changed 4 years later with Envenoming Wounds.
While raw in delivery, Envenoming Wounds is solidly produced with a firm analogue-evocative sound separating every instrument off the bat. Riffs lead the way contrasting moments of lengthier tremolo picked phrases with crunchier chordal hammerblows, resulting in a flow like a speeding car hitting multiple speedbumps during a highway police chase. They aren’t afraid to have a melodic undercurrent, implicit rather than explicit, with flashes of single note quickly picked consonance flittering about these mazes of torturing sorcery—but even those cannot stop the Azagthoth-ian moments of semi-atonal fretboard wizardry, frequently emerging to shatter any illusion of calming safety or friendly accessibility.
The soloing on this album carries on that post-Hanneman/King style of orchestrated ugliness, taking the sort of guitar god excess long associated with metal and its classic rock predecessors, but differs through a vague sense of melody embedded within these chaotic string-borne howls, like a warped mockery of world-renowned virtuoso. Bass thumps along audibly and loyally while drumming races to match the pace of the guitars, surging alongside with skank beats and disciplined blasting. Much of it folds into the pulsing rhythmic action of the guitars, understated by today’s standards and passing in a flash, building on the sense of intense motion, sounding small amidst the swirling carnage but like whispers urging for new levels of lurid, nightmarish violence.
Finally, the vocals are a mid-to-lower range snarl, with enough phlegmy gurgle to back up the album’s lower end and letting every syllable be spat with fiery clarity. They have a more blackened vibe than the rest of the instrumentation, going for shorter and snappier verses, with the steady staccato pattern of barking helping to build that sense of rushing tempo.
With all of this in mind, the end result is fairly stark sounding by today’s standards but honed to a sharp, killing point. Yet what often makes or breaks these types of bands is the songwriting that carries their intransigence across; even the most vile and acerbic of death metal maniacs won’t amount to more than a flash in the pan if the songs struggle to be remembered. Infesticide has annihilating force and cunning in equal measure. Songs generally focus on an interplay of two riffing components; thicker bottom end and often more chord-laden riffing juxtaposed by higher register riffing often allowing sinewy melodies to fluidly emerge. This conflict of sharply contrasting riffing creates a vicious push-pull mechanic as a song’s focus violently rocks between two opposing forces pushing their battle-cries harder than the other. The former group makes violent and frequent pushes for space and territory, carrying along with the meat of the song, but the latter breaks out for sudden counterattacks to elaborate and flesh out songs with notable melodies and changing up the tonal landscape. You can think of the guitar solos as basically where the decisive battles take place, allowing songs to hit a fever pitch of sheer intensity or serving as a midway point for one or the other of the opposing sonic armies to take the initiative and overpower the enemy, resulting in longer melodic passages surging across the ruins.
As a whole this is less chaotic and abrupt than their 2016 debut album, not hitting quite the same level of viscerally satisfying absurd violence, but a newfound lurid clarity makes up for the relatively lesser number of riffs per song, getting more mileage out of each one and with a stronger sense of interplay between them, assisted greatly by the infinitely better production job.
I will not deny that it is not impossible for this school of death metal to fall into the same pitfalls as the caveman style (along with the dissodeath, ritualistic/cavernous, and even the brutal/technical ones). After all, Sturgeon’s Law has no favourites. In spite of that, the foundations it rests upon even if it as a whole is far from codified or united tend to result in a kind of death metal refreshingly devoid of the forced positivity mosh-filler tedium or maudlin “atmospheric” artifice that have become so commonplace in the genre. It’s a return to something even more primordial than Left Hand Path, Onward to Golgotha, or Warmaster; a vision of the genre reduced to one of its most feral forms and filled with a vile, bristling intensity. It has the single-minded direction of its thrash predecessors but expanded upon into a distinctly death metal sense of narrative, running not a dialogue between its various riffs but a nexus of interlocked, intersecting, criss-crossing slaughtering armies. It can be difficult to get behind at first simply due to how little care they give towards the usual practices that define much of today’s OSDM with absolutely zero regard given to anything not related to relentless high-speed violence.
Staying and observing however reveals a craftsmanship that backs up every threat of hellfire and brimstone behind every blast beat, death-howl, and riff. For some this will be an album that you can immediately pick up and be enthralled by and for others it may take a little longer to appreciate its reductive, impious ferocity. It may not appear like much on paper even if not compared to their debut but rather than simply doing “less is more”, Infesticide turn the basic building blocks into a raging firestorm barely held in check by a runtime just a little under 30 minutes. For those who like their death metal to pull no punches but simply slash open jugulars one after the other as it bathes itself in the blood of unwilling sacrifices, this album will do just perfectly.
Four and a half molten toilet-portals to hell.
You can purchase and stream the entire album on Blood Harvest’s bandcamp.