Review: 200 Stab WoundsManual Manic Procedures

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200….. 201…… 202…… 203….. 204……..

Two years ago I caught Obituary on their RedNeckRun III tour with support locally from Edict along with tourmates Gruesome as well as this review’s subject. The subject in question rounding out the lineup was upcoming death metal outfit, 200 Stab Wounds, a band I wasn’t familiar with until their technically precise, brutal set converted me into a fan. I have been following their path of destruction ever since that incredible show. Their early releases 100% deserve attention, especially for fans of old school death metal, but it feels like they’ve leveled up on all fronts since signing to Metal Blade Records last year.

Their 2023 Metal Blade debut single, “Masters of Morbidity”, was a crushing declaration that their sound would not be losing its edge but rather gaining a new devastating dimension. Hype built and festered until their second LP (and first release under a major metal label) Manual Manic Procedures was announced to be unleashed upon the populace on June 28th. For those who had any questions or reservations about this record not having the same urgency or grit, they can rest easy knowing this release will please both the seasoned 2SW fan and the fresh meat finding their way to the slaughterhouse for their first round with the Ohio-based foursome.

Each member has grown excellently in technical proficiency and creativity. This release shows some truly dynamic playing as well as increased cohesion between the group. Steve Buhl’s killer vocals and blood-drenched guitar tone leads the auditory assault on the listener and he is triumphantly backed by the dynamic leads of Raymond Macdonald. Macdonald, the most recent addition to the group, shows his stripes by unleashing some of the most memorable death metal riffs of the year. It sounds like he was always a part of the group the way he seamlessly melds with the rest of the lineup. When it comes to the rhythm section, 200SW has one of the most diabolical drum and bass duos around. Owen Pooley’s drumming is an all-around feast for the ears. He can play in the pocket, cut loose, hold the rhythm and change the dynamic of the tracks at the drop of a hat. Oozing charisma on the drums, he is perfectly accompanied by Ezra Cook on bass. Ezra might have the most memorable moments on the track. His thick bass tone, groovy interludes and thumping grooves really add another dimension to the whole affair. Anyone who has the chance to catch this lineup live should absolutely take it.

Opening cut “Hands Of Eternity” begins the ritualistic ceremony with an ominous ambience that flares into foreboding percussion and a poisonous, chugging, groovy number. The mixing on this record right away is notably a step up from their older output. While having the lo-fi sound is integral on a classic death metal track, the sound these guys are going for is truly elevated by the fantastic engineering by producer/mixer Andy Nelson and mastering by Brad Boatwright. The drums have a great crunch that repeatedly bash the listener into submission. Halfway through the song the terrifying vocals kick in and are followed by a thrashy, mosh-inducing interlude. Pooley is absolutely killing it. This opening number does not disappoint. As the song sounds like it could end, it shifts gears and goes to a groovy bass-heavy parable of vicious technical aggression. A relatively normal running time for a conventional band, this is the longest number on the album at a hair under 5 minutes. They needed less than 5 minutes alone to cover so much ground. These guys have grown so much since I saw them live, it’s so fulfilling as a fan to watch them achieve such a level of proficiency and musicianship.

“Gross Abuse” has the interloping of grindcore and groove metal and we are all at the wedding party to witness the horrific results of their unholy union. Buhl’s sludgy, agonized vocal delivery fuses perfectly with how the guitars lay on top of the drums. The bass adds the perfect thick coating to the putrid stew. Cook holds things together while the thunderous double kicks match the frantic fast-spitting gutturals. Pooley implements well-timed and satisfying china cymbal hits near the end. Deliciously destructive—more please.

Title track “Manual Manic Procedures” is one of the grooviest numbers on the album. Pooley and Cook, rhythmic tag team champions own this cut starting off the song with a great bass line that the rest of the instruments wrap around. An intense, wall-of-death-worthy number; it’s obvious why the album is named after this one. I can visualize this track absolutely killing it live. The last portion of the song shifts into full gear, full speed ahead into an unhinged, fast-paced last minute which is an all out percussive assault. Macdonald has some standout moments here. Definitely one of the choice cuts on 200SW’s morbid menu.

“Release the Stench” has a Pantera-esque opening with shades of Carcass. Putting it in normal terms, what’s not to love? With the relentless chugging grooves, it’s a great track to just get lost in. This is a perfect album to have on and just get lost headbanging. It’s not the feel good party thrash album of the summer, it’s the knuckleduster to the face modern death metal has needed for Lemmy knows how long. So original, but so clearly drawing from several playbooks of equally great predecessors. This band has evolved to another level of technical pummeling. 

Track five, “Led To The Chamber / Liquified” is the perfect follow-up number. With its synth-heavy beginning, it’s a slow burning start that makes the cut instantly stand out from the pack. Once again the drums come in and the rest of the group follows in perfect, malicious harmony. The synths at first seem like a corny choice but they pair really well with the drums and shredding neoclassical guitars, sounding like the missing link between Yngwie, A7X and The Black Dahlia Murder. The track dissolves like amnesia wearing off on the operating table, leaving the listener anxious for what awaits them in the cold surgical unknown.

“Flesh From Within” is where the album regains its edge with the instantly adrenaline-fueling shredding opening riffs and tom drum heavy build up. The production highlights every inch of this cut. There’s a noticeably sick ride cymbal groove that catches my ear. Another all around banger, super well-rounded number. The ending of this one closes up and ties everything together well, bravo 200SW, bravo.

Getting into the home stretch of the track list, “Defiled Gestation” has a heavy opening that drops into a sadistically satisfying guitar slide that leads into another bruiser. The bass shines once , leading into a mosh starting section with the four on the floor bass drumming and shredding. Some of the best moments of the album are here. It’s one of the cuts that combines the atmosphere, groove, technical precision and aggression of earlier cuts together. A fast-paced death prog nuke that delivers on all levels. So many great individual pieces to pick apart. If you want a track to seek out from this album, this might be the one.

Let’s all take a second to appreciate how cool a song name “Ride The Flatline” is. Written by Cook about an Ohio River chemical spill in the aftermath of a railway accident, this one puts you right in the middle of the chaos. Yet another great build up into a swift, hate-filled number. Some of the harshest, muddiest vocals on the record are captured here. Intensity incarnate, evoking feelings of Obituary, you can tell the group learned a lot from their time on the road with them. Add in additional aggression from Code Orange‘s Jami Morgan, this is another masterclass in modern blasphemic death metal goodness.

The culmination of the project, “Parricide” once again shows that 200SW knows how to start a song right. This opening piece in particular might be one of my favorite openings. Again, chilling guitar playing and genuinely stunning drumming. It’s impressive how the band can simultaneously have such aggressive sounding music that can be both technically brilliant but also still engaging. Any prog or tech death group can lay down some complex tracks that the listener can sit back and marvel at, but if there is no substance under the skin, it’s just a hollow façade. 200SW are able to negate this by their consistently evolving songs that are enjoyable on multiple fronts. The drum kit has this subtly energizing hi-hat that mixes so well with the bass. There is a great higher and lower vocal bit that stands out wonderfully. I can see the crowd really getting into this one. The track takes on a melodic edge that is a ton of fun. Once again some top notch drum fills that don’t distract from the rest of the group, this song demonstrates some of the best member to member cohesion on the album. It might be the perfect ending number. When the rest of the instruments drop out and it’s just the main riff, you know it’s going to get wild. The last bit of the track rides the groove off into the ether—such a satisfying closer. The album fades out statically as the anesthesia wears off once again. What a ride.

If I went back in time and showed myself this record after I saw these guys live, I would be so immensely proud of how much they have grown in such little time. It seems they’ve garnered a lot of attention over the last few years and are at the front of the emerging modern traditional death metal boom that’s been going on for the last few years. I can only imagine where they go from here and I wish them all the best. I truly think any heavy music appreciator will take something away from this. For the grindcore enthusiast, the old heads, the groove metallers and beyond, this is one of the releases you need to hear this summer. I hope that I can see them live again someday and hear this material the way it was meant to be heard, from the pit! 

4.5/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell

Top Tracks: “Hands of Eternity”, “Defiled Gestation”, “Parricide”

Manual Manic Procedures is out now!

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