Aural Autopsy: Dissecting Obscene Majesty by Devourment
The year 2019 has been a watermark year for new metal releases, particularly for venerable bands and musicians. We can now add Obscene Majesty by Texas slamming brutal death metal forefathers Devourment to the list. Formed in Dallas way back in 1995, Devourment took the world by storm with their 1999 full-length album debut Molesting the Decapitated. Over the years, the band has endured harrowing hardships, including the incarceration of vocalist and guitarist (during the band’s middle period from 2005 - 2013) Ruben Rosas and the tragic death of original vocalist Wayne Knupp from alcoholism. Despite all this, Devourment recorded the classic single “Baby Killer”, and three more excellent albums: Butcher the Weak, Unleash the Carnivore, and Conceived in Sewage. Obscene Majesty is a much-anticipated return to form, properly recapturing the revolting atmosphere of Molesting the Decapitated with Rosas returning to lead vocal duties and gravity blast beat maestro Brad Fincher once again on the drums.
Now, mind you, the return of some key members from the Molesting the Decapitated era does not mean that this album is a nostalgic romp through the early days of slam. Obscene Majesty is a thoroughly modern release, with production standards in line with other high-profile metal releases that have come out this year, as well as the utilization of 8-string guitars, which provides for particularly nasty, down-tuned riffage that approaches the fabled territory of the brown note. The riffs are also tight and precise, the drumming is punchy with clear articulation, and the vocals are not muddled in mid-range purgatory, but rather crisp and biting, without sacrificing any of the guttural aural vomit that is required of any slam recording worth it's salt. It’s almost as if Rosas had never stepped away from the mic and that Fincher was always behind the kit, as this album doesn’t miss a beat when taking the progression throughout Devourment’s entire catalog into consideration.
This becomes quickly apparent with opener “A Virulent Strain of Retaliation,” complete with the eerie industrial noise intro that is by now standard fare in many slam death albums. Fincher’s signature staccato blast beats assault the listener about 76 seconds in (00:01:16) and there is no mistake that we are being treated to classic Devourment. The next track, “Cognitive Sedation Butchery” showcases a fairly obvious Cannibal Corpse influence, as the band is wont to do, during the first 110 seconds or so before breaking into some obligatory slamming. The nasty growl of the 8-string guitars caps off the track in its final bars. The third track “Narcissistic Paraphilia” is a by-the-numbers slam-a-lam that will get you moshing, as Devourment takes the risk to include nu-metal/crabcore half-step jumpdafuckup chugga-chugga riffs and full step bends through the bridge section and the track’s finale.
“Arterial Spray Patterns” is the first song on the album that fully revisits the Molesting the Decapitated era, as hyperspace velocity blast sections give way to neck-breaking slams and accelerate back again to high G-force speed. The fifth track “Profane Contagion” slaps the listener with mid-paced brutality and liberal usage of down-tuned guitar putridity. “Dysmorphic Autophagia” follows, with a brutal stomp that will invariably cause involuntary headbanging, and the inverted and palm-muted sweep picking is a nice touch on this track. There is also a juicy thrash/OSDM styled riff on this track that kicks in at the 2 minute 37-second mark (2:37). The seventh track “Sculptured In Tyranny” bulldozes the listener with its ultra-slow tempo and heavier than a neutron star plodding composition.
The eighth track “Xenoglossia” hammers away at the cranium like an industrial machine designed for cracking skulls to harvest brains in the production of pre-packaged snacks for zombies. The juxtaposition of the pinch harmonics and down-tuned 8-stringer riffs make for some caveman, knuckle-dragging slam goodness. Rounding out the album is the grotesque display of blasterbation foisted upon the listener on track “Modum Sui Morte”, which also contains even more of the low register slam-tastic guitar work that has accompanied us throughout this entire collection of songs. The guttural growls are pushed to the limits of what humans are capable of, in a disturbing display of gurgled obscenity. Finally, Obscene Majesty is capped off by closing track “Truculent Antipathy,” a head-whipping banger of a track, serving as a thesis of this work by the Dallas maestros of slam. It’s all here: chaotic blast beats, pummeling slams, and bile-gargling vocals. The slams get slower and heavier, raising the heart rate of the listener to the point of acute myocardial infarction.
This is an excellent effort by the forefathers of slam death, and I have thoroughly enjoyed each listen I have given this album in the process of writing this review. If Slime and Grime is going to engage in the standard zine trope of a “best albums of the year list” in the coming months as 2019 comes to a close, I can assure you, dear reader, that this album will be on that list of the best that metal has to offer released during our planet’s current revolution around the sun. The slams are heavier, the blasts are faster, and the vocals are nastier than most of Devourment’s previous output, and stands alone as a lesson in what slamming brutal death metal should be.
Album: Obscene Majesty
Label: Relapse Records
Lineup: Brad Fincher - Drums
Ruben Rosas - Vocals (lead)
Chris Andrews - Guitars (8-string), Vocals (additional)
Dave Spencer - Bass