When it comes to death metal I don’t ask for much. As much as I enjoy exploration and stretching boundaries in other genres when I get that death metal itch I look for a guttural stench that recalls the old school technical groove I grew up with: Cannibal Corpse, Immolation, Suffocation…meat and potatoes metal that doesn’t cop to this new-fangled penchant for cavernous recorded in a well howling so many folks seem to be enamored of. Lucky for me Abhorrent Deformity feel the same way, because Slaughter Monolith digs straight into that period with a lurching gait that satisfies my cravings and makes it rain sweat and blood.
Coming out of North Carolina, the band released a small demo in 2014 before offering up their 2015 debut Entity of Malevolence, which trades in the common components of modern death metal: low, subsonic gargled vocals, guitars dropped down to this side of floppy tunings, and enough pinched harmonics to make your dogs cry. In other words it’s fine, but I don’t know if I heard it at the time I would have given it a second listen despite some unraveling moments of chaos like “Skeleton Carver” or back half pummeling that is “Baptized in Embalming Fluid.” It’s all good, and extra points for the song titles, but nothing that I haven’t heard dozens of other bands do at a similar level of execution.
That’s not the case with Slaughter Monolith. Taking away the almost useless intro (seriously – it’s a minute of almost nothing) there’s a precision and focus on opener “Sexually Transmitted Coma” that instantly elevates the material. Vocalist Mark De Gruchy is not only enunciating clearly, but using a much wider net of vocal tics and tremors to make the songs more memorable. Insofar as you would want death metal to have a “hook” having De Gruchy bring this much passion and vitriol to the songs allows them to settle and stew in your innards nicely. There’s also an added clarity to the production: nothing feels swampy and loose, which when you’re playing with this level of technicality that vibe just doesn’t work. Working with just one guitarist Jason Keating makes a huge racket in the best possible way, limiting the drudging low chugs in favor of spirited tech death on tracks like “Three Piece Flesh Suit” and “The Fine Art of Amputation.” There’s definitely a kinship with latter, more technical-era Cannibal Corpse, but a wider variety in tempo keeps Slaughter Monolith from feeling like a Gallery of Suicide clone.
Your mileage is going to vary depending on how you like your death metal: folks into the cavernous assault of chaos favored by bands like Of Feather and Bone and Triumvir Foul probably need not apply here. But if you’re like me and you’re craving some old school technical death that punches you in the face and drags you across the concrete with a degree of precision and melody (not to mention some fantastically gruesome song titles) than not only will Abhorrent Deformity and Slaughter Monolith be right up your alley, it will take you behind that alley and beat your brains against the wall in the best possible way.