Devourment (United States Of America) – 1.3.8.

As far as kicking ass goes, Devourment has sort of cornered the market on the very concept of ass-kicking, and it’s silly that people attempt to deny it. Even if you don’t like slam, not liking Devourment is akin to not liking death metal and not even enjoying Possessed from time to time. I mean, really, as the godfathers of the style they’ve really mastered the concept of slam to the point where it transcends the natural limitations of the style to the point where everyone should really be enjoying it; if you don’t, you’re lying or you’re missing the crucial ‘enjoys cool music’ part of the brainstem, in which case you can’t be helped. Suicide may be your only option, to be honest. In any case, Devourment never really let the whole idea of slam as a genre overwhelm their music; they are, after all, the ones who essentially invented, and probably invented it by listening to ‘Liege Of Inveracity’ a few hundred times and saying “holy shit guys, we can do that!”

‘1.3.8.’ is the ubiquitous compilation of early Devourment. It opens up with the classic ‘Babykiller’, albeit in a rather primitive form, and it’s fantastic; it’s got the most archtypical slam ever halfway through and the blasting sections are interesting in their filthiness and chaos. When you get down to it, the slams are the most coherent thing about Devourment; apart from the periodic mid-paced riffs, it’s not like you really know what the fuck is going on when the snare rolls and random tremolo riffs start, you just know it’s ugly and cool. Those are the parts where you sip your beer and reduce the intensity of your headbanging. When the tempo drops again, THEN you get to feel angry and hit something.

The three tracks off the ‘Impaled’ demo are next. This is where opinions of Devourment fans split a bit, because these are a weird few songs. There’s a particularly sludgy, sewer-style production at work here, and everything sort of sounds like a bass guitar, even the vocals. The structures of these tracks are even less coherent and more blurring than usual Devourment fair around the ‘Molesting The Decapitated’ time period, and in a lot of ways it resembles goregrind more than death metal at times; it’s very raw and noisy and it’s probably responsible for influencing a lot of the more filthy artists in the Colombian slam scene who probably heard this and promptly ignored anything else an American slam band did for the next decade or so. Personally, I don’t listen to these tracks very often; the idea of a super noisy sludge/death mixture is pretty sweet, but when I listen to Devourment I’m there for the slam more than the chaos. They’re cool but not super compelling to me; mileage varies considerably among different people.

But the meat of this compilation is in the concluding eight tracks, which form the legendary ‘Molesting The Decapitated’ from 1999. To be honest, it’s classic for a reason. As probably the first example of full-fledged slam death, it definitely doesn’t lack anything insofar as songwriting goes. It’s probably a good thing that the band invented slam more as a mistake than an intentional songwriting goal; it results in tracks with more intricacy and variation than a lot of modern slam death bands, who sort of fall into the funeral doom trap of making music that suits the genre and not much else, with songs that are nothing more than linear blasting followed by slams followed by blasting and more slams and so on. It’s cool sometimes, but Devourment really takes it to the next level by having some, you know, actual songwriting to back up all the CHUG CHUG CHUG.

The sloppy, super-heavy production is a great asset, with slightly buried drums placed pretty far under the very ugly guitars and constantly rumbling basstrain which is felt more than heard. The vocals just sort of lounge around; they’re not executed precisely, and they don’t need to be; they’re there to be disgusting and they perform admirably at the task. The coolest parts of ‘Molesting The Decapitated’, ironically, are not really the slam parts at all; it’s during the more midpaced, traditionally modern brutal death metal parts where the band shows their ability to craft actually engaging riffs and rhythms, which alone sets them above a ton of other slam bands. Songs like the title track or ‘Devour The Damned’ are like an elephant dick to the face, particularly the latter, which might just be my favorite Devourment track of all time, being bigger, dumber, and heavier than all the others. I guess that’s kind of like being the fattest dude on an episode of Ricki Lake, but this is slam we’re talking about, and I don’t really expect anything more from an album called ‘Molesting The Decapitated’.

For a lot of people, ‘Butcher The Weak’ is a more immediately pleasing album from this band; it’s definitely more coherent, better played, and better produced. But then again, another section of the population finds charm in the primordial ooze that is early Devourment. Either way, it’s a pretty masterful release for slam fans and if you want a well-rounded look at the underground metal scene, this is a pretty important part of it, since it gives you a peek not only at the seminal full-length but a couple other things as well. As usual, recommended; even if you don’t like it, it’s a pretty important release for anyone into a more holistic look at death metal.

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~ by noktorn on July 17, 2008.

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