Some of heavy music’s more extreme and repellent subgenres, like war metal and brutal death metal, are ripe for a particular kind of criticism. “I hear a bunch of angry white boys,” was the first remark from a decidedly anti-metal friend upon hearing Murdered‘s Killed To Death, the new and fiercely punishing one-man act release by Justin McNeil. Unfair though such rebukes may be, they are indicative of the time, and perhaps a kernel of truth. In embracing the raw, guttural essence of some corners of metal, there is a real danger in just sounding like yet another pastiche of drum machines, riffs and barking. Or, well, angry white boys.
On first listen, Killed To Death might strike you as one of a multitude of one-man death metal albums out there. Black and death metal in particular have no shortage of these performers, including Haiduk, Arckanum and Testicular Seizure, to name a few. But, make no mistake: Murdered’s new album is filled with textures that are sure to make this a recording you’ll remember. A solid outing that deserves your attention, and nervous respect.
To dispense with the most urgent question, yes, Murdered is as furious as the name implies. Machine-gun drumming? Check. Ravenous and monstrous guitar? Check. Indecipherable vocals that hover somewhere between croaking and growls? That’s here too. McNeil’s gift as a multi-instrumentalist is in creating moments of levity in the relentlessness that is Killed To Death. In fact, the record is strongest when McNeil injects the unexpected. There’s a slowed-down almost-sludge bridge in the opener, “Corroded Hacksaw Dismemberment,” that shakes up the festivities. “Demented Degenerate” begins with a horror-film segue and riffs that offer a little groove before vaulting back into a furnace of chords and hammering rhythm. Something approaching an audible lyric surprises you on “Psychotic Defecation.” Even a deathmarch tempo in tracks like “Satanic Slam Dancing Ritual” manages to bring something original to the table, and it is welcome.
There are groups in the more savage fringes of metal and noise that are fascinating storytellers and innovative musicians. A few that come to mind include bands like Ulcerate, Demilich, Bleed the Pigs and Nocturnus. And though Murdered’s lyrical punch is plainly aural (and titular – songs like “Killed, Then Raped” and “Spewing Massive Entrails” pretty much tell you all you need to know from the outset), the arrangement of tracks relates imagination by setting a tone. The ruthless music has subtle ebbs and flows throughout, giving you freshness when it would be easy to settle on just going for the barbarous. “Possessed Corpse” is typical of these songs, with a drum-heavy attack and evident open, mid-point and close, each with different pacing. McNeil is a veteran performer, having previously come on your radar with Necroexophilia, and it shows in the way he’s put forth Killed To Death.
Not to oversell the creative touches, though. If brutal death metal is your jam, you will not be disappointed by Murdered’s work here. However, if you aren’t as big on early 1990s’ Suffocation or harsher metal ala Disentomb or Wormed, Justin McNeil may make you a believer. Murdered To Death will please a lot of fans, and leave you fascinated by this next chapter.