Review: Focal Dystonia – Descending (in)human Flesh

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On Descending (in)human Flesh, Focal Dystonia delivers a beautifully disturbed tribute to all things slamming.

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Despite the absolutely heinous reputation slamming brutal death metal has among those outside its admittedly grotesque barrier-of-entry, I’ve slowly learned to love the genre, warts and all. It’s rivaled only by goregrind in the fields of inaccessibility, disgust, and repetitiveness. I can definitely see why people have trouble getting into bands named shit like Vomit Remnants, Analepsy, and Pustulated. That said, there’s something to be admired in how repugnant and dangerous a good slam album can be. Diving headfirst into one of extreme metal’s many bastard children has made me feel similar to the way I did when I was first having my catholic guilt ripped away by Deicide (slightly frightened and surprisingly engaged). Even beyond that, there’s some genuine heavy hitting bravado in songs like Devourment’s “Babykiller” once the shock subsides. The style has some tics and idiosyncrasies to get used to, but this groovy, tough guy bullshit can be incredibly engaging and cathartic.

All this is to say that slam is a genre worth being celebrated. More often than not, genre staples like Afterbirth, Katalepsy, and Devourment are only given respect once they wander away from their groovy, filth-encrusted roots, if at all. You have your admirers, fans, and worship acts—but, beyond compilations and tight knit communities like Slam Worldwide, the genre lacks the same love letters that other types of metal get. Enter multi-instrumentalist Floor van Kuijk and drummer Florent Duployer, the members of Focal Dystonia. With their album Descending (in)human Flesh, we finally see the tribute to all things slam every meathead deserves.

Yet, to surmise the band itself as “meatheaded” does songwriter van Kuijk a great disservice, as every track on this Comatose Music debut shows equal attention to both brutality and technicality. Blasting straight out of the gate with “Ascending thy Abhorrent Gods,” the compositional prowess featured all throughout this record reeks more of the “techy” side of brutal death metal. This said, there are enough grooves, breakdowns, and slams featured all over tracks like “Scorching the Soul,” “Anatomy of Animosity,” and “Cognizance of Obscurity” to keep listeners of the “br00tal” persuasion happy. All of this is performed by van Kuijk and Duployer with the necessary swagger required to chug through a meticulously planned riffstorm.

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In addition two the two musicians who make up Focal Dystonia, each track features vocals from a different member of the close knit world of brutal death metal. The featuring gurglers (from bands such as Waking the Cadaver, Gorepot, and Indecent Excision) lend a form of legitimacy to the band’s ode to death metal’s depraved offspring. This stylistic choice leads to some jarring shifts from song to song occasionally, but it’s ultimately very interesting to hear different vocal talents and approaches with the same take on brutal death metal. Ultimately, this variation keeps each song sounding fresh and each vocalist brings a different jaunting swagger to the music.

It’s absolutely great to hear such talented musicians deliver a loving send-up to this most unfairly maligned genre. The intent is definitely there, as the marketing of this record has made something clear—it is a direct letter of love to the world of slam, be it bloodsoaked and knuckle-dragging or complex and technical. It might take some genre familiarity to truly appreciate how specially crafted this work of adoration is, but it’s entirely worth it to anyone who can really sink their teeth into this brand of metal. It’s great to see this kind of passion in any genre, let alone one you rarely see this kind of respect for outside of the slam-sphere.

It’s beautiful… in a depraved sort of way.

4/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell

 

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