It’s been five long years since DYING FETUS‘ last career-best album Reign Supreme, and it really has felt like it. Sure, a decent amount of that time was spent touring, and in the UK the #WhyNotDyingFetus campaign that led to their slot opening the main stage at 2014’s Download Festival has gone down in folklore as some kind of wondrous victory for both the power of the little man and general internet banter. However that was still three years ago, and with this being the longest gap between albums in DYING FETUS‘ now quarter of a century-spanning career, you couldn’t be blamed for wondering if one of the most renowned forces in death metal were slowing down.
The announcement then that the eighth DYING FETUS album would indeed be out in 2017 and would be titled Wrong One to Fuck With was like a warm, familiar hug: not only are DYING FETUS back but with an album title as gloriously crass as that, we are at peak DYING FETUS. A cover featuring a butchered man in a hallway and the gnarlier of their two logos promise brutality in spades if the title and fact that it’s a DYING FETUS album already didn’t, and while Wrong One to Fuck With doesn’t bring a huge amount of new tricks to the table, after five years away a simple reminder of why DYING FETUS are so damn great in the first place works just as well. The veteran bruisers are in fine form all across this record, and despite being as unapologetically death metal as they come, there’s still no other band that nails their distinct flavour of it quite like they do.
The DYING FETUS sound is all about the balance of the most mind-meltingly technical passages with the most thuggish and wilfully obnoxious grooves favoured by more simplistic bands that yet rarely reach this level of potency. The result is a band surprisingly hard to categorise, too versatile and complex to be slam (along with the band predating and probably influencing that movement entirely), and yet too brutish and direct to be tech death. Songs are disorientating blurs with an avalanche of riffs toppling down one after the other, slicing in out of nowhere only to be disposed of swiftly as the band crunch into the next. In a sense, this makes Wrong One to Fuck With a little formulaic for the band, but the feeling of DYING FETUS transitioning from a dazzling flurry of twisting leads into a thick groove that dislodges vital organs is still exhilarating every single time. It takes tremendous ability from all players involved to be so adept at these radically different aspects, and to make it so seamless is disgustingly impressive.
All too many technical metal bands though can be “impressive” without inspiring any feeling; DYING FETUS are built to make pits explode. Songs like Ideological Subjugation and the title track are infused with a two-stepping hardcore spirit, the latter featuring a rare moment of vocal comprehensibility for its tremendously satisfying refrain that is sure to make it a live favourite, and every song is loaded with so many little moments that are just breathlessly exciting whether it’s the unforgiving neck-breaking chug that punches through Panic Amongst the Herd or the point thirty seconds into Fallacy where the snare suddenly blasts so obscenely quickly for mere moments as if to wink to the audience that yes, things can get even more barbaric. The more melodic intro to Weaken the Structure conveying a different flavour of darkness is an interesting moment before it moves into more traditional FETUS fare, but Wrong One to Fuck With is mostly business as usual. It just happens that what is conventional for DYING FETUS is so beyond the hopes of so many of their contemporaries, and it remains a joy to behold. We’ve missed you.
Wrong One to Fuck With is out now on Relapse Records.
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