Death metal seems to require a level of musicianship and equipment that, as someone who has trouble with the most rudimentary of scales and chords, I find intimidating. It appears as though the best musicians in metal tend to, on the whole, gravitate towards death metal. It allows them to show off just how quickly they can riff, the precision of their blast beats, and their dexterity on the fretboard. As a young 'un, the only death metal bands I ever really had time for was Deicide and Corpsefucking Art. They still are, as they seem to have something of a sense of humour about what they do combined with some great music. So when Dying Fetus's (DF) new album Reign Supreme was made available to me, I thought it was high-time I climbed back on the death metal horse, to see what happened. And, while we didn't quite ride off into the sunset together, we did share some good times along the way.
'Reign Supreme' is DF's seventh album in total, and their fifth with Relapse. They've been going for over twenty years and have had some tribulations along the way including the loss of members, stylistic changes, etc. They're probably most famous for their political themes (though, naturally, impenetrable death growls make this a moot point for a casual observer or target of invective). This album remains true to that style, and is twelve tracks of pure, complex hatred. However, in an odd move, DF have decided to put the three weakest tracks at the front of the album, meaning that it gets off to an incredibly slow start.
'Invert The Idols' and first single 'Subjected To A Beating' are standard death-metal-by-numbers, which while serviceable, are nothing fantastic. 'Invert...' is a good opening for the album, with its tumbling, spiralling riff, but its reliance on the piggy growl that plagues deathcore (shitcore?) makes DF sound like some awful imposter - Suicide Silence, Emmure, or the like - when they are clearly so much better than that. 'Subjected...' stumbles through the same shit-patch, clearly only the first single because it is probably the most deathcore-sounding track on the album, and will thus go down well with "the kids". 'Second Skin' ploughs this same furrow, and then thankfully ends. The album really begins with 'From Womb To Waste' - opening sample aside, this song shows what DF can really do when they get their heads out of the notation, loosen their belts and their ties a little bit, and just fucking play. The song's ferocious second half has an almost Slayer-like weight to it and it's forward motion is incredible. With this song, the album mostly ditches it's bullshit piggy-growl and wholly throws itself into full-blown technical death metal, angry at everything and screaming at everyone. Other stand-out tracks, aside from 'From Womb To Waste', are 'Dissidence', 'Devout Atrocity', and the anthemic 'Revisionist Past', which sounds like it'd be an absolute barn-stormer live.
'Reign Supreme' gets it right more often that it gets it wrong, and the first three tracks could easily have been excised, or given to We Butter The Bread With Butter. I'd still count it as a return to form for DF, and on the strength of this I'm definitely going to be crossing my fingers for live dates in the UK.
Posted: Tue 19 June 2012