Thursday, August 12, 2010

Decrepit Birth - Diminishing Between Worlds

Faceless only because it MELTED OFF

I have a well known love for generic brutal and/or technical death metal as long as it doesn't bore me very much. Despite the flaws, I'll take Hour of Penance, Necrophagist, and Origin over Human Filleted, Scrambled Defuncts, or Beheaded any day. This salad shooter, blast-tastic, Unique Leader brand of technical death metal that has gotten so popular as of late has its share of worthy and shitty bands just like any genre, but the line between the two kinds is a bit blurrier. On the surface, the three I mentioned as being good examples aren't very fundamentally different that the crappy three. Maybe it's because the ones I don't like (HF and SD especially) sound like Suffocation and nothing more, or maybe it's because the ones I considered better are faster and cleaner. It's hard for me to describe precisely why albums like, say Cryptic Implosion are better than albums like Ominous Bloodline. But as with every rule, there is one exception... I can tell you without a modicum of uncertainty why Decrepit Birth's Diminishing Between Worlds kicks the collective ass of damn near all its contemporaries.

The main thing that stood out to me upon first listen is the band's mastery of melody, something most groups of their ilk seem to shun in favor of unrelenting devastation. Be it a quasi interlude like "The Enigmatic Form" or the tsunami-esque "Reflections of Emotions", the album retains a strong sense of melody above the insane drum patterns and lightning fast riffs underneath. The most poignant influence I hear is, without a doubt, The Sound of Perseverance era Death. The more progressive and melody driven sound of Schuldiner's soloing on said album was obviously a major force in the songwriting here, as a lot of the songs sound like beefed up TSOP throwaways. Much like Destruction and their riffs, even the Death songs that don't make the cut are good enough for another band to pick up and personalize. I swear I hear parts of "Voice of the Soul" in "The Enigmatic Form" and "Flesh and the Power it Holds" in the title track. The dandy thing is that Decrepit Birth are able to work this blatant worship into their own melodic tech death formula well enough for me to not hold it against them like I do to so many Suffocation clones. Also, these guitar players must have burned off every nerve ending in their fingertips while writing and rehearsing for this album alone, as the leads and solos are virtually non stop. Yeah, the percussion is relentless and all, but the guitar wizardry sticks out the most.

However, even if your dog is an expert hunting dog and won the Westminster dog show for best in class, you still have to roll up a newspaper and deliver some punishment when he eats the cake you stupidly left on the counter or poos on the carpet. What that means is that even though Decrepit Birth does a whole slew of things right and essentially schools most of the genre frontrunners, they still drop the ball in a few aspects. One is the general variation between tracks. This is an odd one considering there are two instrumental interludes, one rerecorded track from their less melodic (and frankly less interesting) days, and a good chunk of memorable guitar lines within each song, but overall the album is faceless and lacks enough diversity to keep me coming back for a quickie. Diminishing Between Worlds is great if you have enough time to burn through the entire record, but is actually lacking when it comes to individuality within itself. The fact that there isn't a real standout track in an album I obviously like usually means that the album as a whole is very strong, but here the fact that there are a few differing styles of tracks means something else. It shows that the band can do different things, but they can't do any of them as well as they can do the one superficial aspect. Their mastery of leadwork and melody carries every track, but nothing else is nearly as good as that particular thing. There are no real riffs to speak of, the vocals come from the Pierced from Within era Frank Mullen school of DM vocals and they're fairly inconsequential, and the drumming, while good, is nothing special considering every percussionist in the modern tech death scene is apparently an android who can drum at pant shittingly high speeds with jaw dropping precision. Also, the rerecording of "...And Time Begins" is stupid and doesn't warrant inclusion if you ask me. It dates back to their first album when they were little more than one of the shameless Suffocation clones I loathe so much, so it noticeably lacks the virtuosity and heavy melodies of the rest of the album.

Regardless of those two issues, this is still a very worthy addition to any fan of the modern tech death scene or later era Death. Most of the tracks sound very similar, but the band's insane guitar work lifts every other aspect of the band to above the level of mediocrity in which they'd otherwise wallow. Maybe I'm just a hair brained mouth breather, but the fretboard wizardry is enough to impress me and actually distract me from the things Decrepit Birth isn't spectacular at. I like to think of it as less of the band dangling something shiny over something bland and see it more as a woman with a decently attractive face and bland personality, but with enormous tits. Diminishing Between Worlds is little more than just The Sound of Perseverance on steroids down at its core, but the band wrote it at the perfect time when it got big and muscular, but its balls haven't shrank yet.

RATING - 84%

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