Monday, May 17, 2010

Decrepit Birth - ...And Time Begins

Decrepit Birth - ...And Time Begins
2003, Unique Leader Records

No pauses, no soothing acoustic guitar pieces of chiaroscuro building, no female vocal soaring and dipping, no synthesizer soundscapes to set the mood, no gradual development and stately, slow introduction. No excuses. Just sheer sudden terror, in medias res, like waking up from a deep dreamless sleep to a raging anxiety attack in your intestines, the fluids hammering in your head, finding yourself struggling to catch a breath and hearing a tornado roaring outside your window, the glass buckling and bending inward, trees crashing and falling to the scorched ground, and then greeted with the view of every member of your family, young and old, crazed, possessed, at each other's throats, screaming and ripping and tearing. Ex Inferis. This is how this album begins, and does not let up one single time, one single second for twenty five-odd minutes. The song lengths tell the tale: 1:24, 3:02, 2:58, 2:14, 2:14, 3:29, 3:31, 2:12, and 4:04 [an epic by this album's standards, leading into a long outro that takes up the remaining 5:00]. No wasted, excess flesh, no fat to trim, no empty calories. Twenty five minutes of pure unadulterated brutal technical grinding death metal, the way it was meant to be played, and in a way that it has never been played before.

People have been referencing Deeds of Flesh when referring to this band. I think Deeds of Flesh hears music like this in their nightmares.

Decrepit Birth are technically proficient. This fact will burst in upon your senses in the first 1:24, the opening fusillade "Prelude to the Apocalypse", which is a seething, chaotic full body epileptic seizure of hammering blasts and absurdly pure labyrinth-riffing. Vocalist Bill Robinson groans and spits into the microphone: "Before time it existed a life barren rock/Orbiting perpetually the sphere of light/Incubating life upon the jewel of/Omni-po-tence". The next line, in the lyric sheet as "Harmony [balanced with/with chaos]" is not heard so much as it is felt clotting in one's bowels. The second verse, "Instinctual process/Learning continuous/Calling upon effort to survive as a whole" is absorbed so fast that it doesn't even register. You are already lost. The song is approaching its tortured adolescence, one fourth of its running time, and it is leaving you behind. The drastic formula is set: from Tim Yeung, blistering, Gatling gun snare hits, constant, rolling double bass, lightspeed swirling fills, a storm of clashing cymbals; then palm-muted percussive riffing in white noise avalanches of bewildering melodic fragments, isolated riffs, and riff segments that blow past your ears so quickly you spend half of the listening time trying to remember what you just heard. A deep, persuasive vocal presence appears, front and center, a voice both world weary and confidently aggressive. Bass lines stretch across the inner landscape, appearing mainly as cast-off aftereffects of Derek Boyer's fingers hitting his strings, mirroring Matt Sotelo's world-building guitar. I usually don't pick up consciousness again until the finale of the third song, where Robinson echoes at its climax "I am your Kingdom of God, I am your Kingdom of God, I am your Kingdom of God, I am your Kingdom of God." It actually sounds like he's saying "I became a God." Amazing.

Through music...I became a God.

Decrepit Birth [what a strange name!] are at the top of the technical/brutal death metal genre. There is not another band on this planet that is as frustratingly technical and incredibly harsh and/or hard in its effects. They are simply merciless and their adroit instrumental proficiency seems to appear as just another form of cruelty, creating maze after dark maze which ensnares one's will as one is dragged bodily, screaming, through the dissecting process of each song. If I could compare this band to any object or entity it would be some kind of reaping or slaughtering machine, like those dismembering engines on the cover of Suffocation's "Effigy of the Forgotten", only this machine not only rips and tears you to shreds, it somehow devours you whole and deposits each particle of your eviscerated corpse inside tiny mirrored compartments where your consciousness is divided and yet still solvent, trapped within a thousand individual abysses. Dead and dreaming in blood, you stare at your minutely discomposed self for eternity. I love this band, and yet I hate how they often make me feel: old, slow, confused, lost, and ultimately meaningless. Full of...despair. Isolated, alienated, victimized. Inhuman.

Isn't this how death metal is supposed to make you feel?

I think it is impossible for me to adequately describe this work, or to echo in words the effect it has on one when one listens to it. After all, if I could completely capture the impact of this music in language [if anyone could] there wouldn't be any reason for it to exist. Decrepit Birth are constantly seeking to go beyond language, even beyond the musical language and system of signs/symbols that death metal has created over the past decade to express and/or capture the kinds of emotions that they are putting forth here. Ultimately the best seducer and convincer is just the music itself, without excuses [as I said above], without introductions or appeasements or attempts at placing this monster of an album within descriptive brackets, labels, or judgements. I have been listening to this thing for more than a month now and I am still as bewildered as I was on the first day I heard it, although I can pick up signposts for my own orientation every now and again as it whirls me through its cyclone transgressions. Is this the future of death metal? I don't know...it is one possible future, of course. Decrepit Birth, with the writing and selling of this music, would seem to want other bands to follow in their footsteps and take up their banner, their crusade to warp, alter, and revivify the strangled creativity in death metal. The only problem is that...I don't know of any bands that could actually follow in their wake, such is the path of destruction this monument leaves behind it.

We'll just have to wait and see.