Written by Kostas Vaxevanos 10/11/2022

The truth is that what everyone hears is purely subjective. Perception is how one will distinguish one musical genre from another. It is an attempt to balance on a tightrope but where the tightrope walker turns is up to him…

Let’s take for example Sepultura’s «Beneath the Remains» and compare it to Malevolent Creation’s «The Ten Commandments». Both for me are Death Metal. The Brazilians always played Death Metal from their early days until Arise but because of maybe lyrics «non conformity in my inner self…» it got the label of Thrash. Even now I know its more extreme but it clearly doesn’t have the volume of the MC’s debut.

So with this example I start and try to describe and define the term Brutal Death Metal. The first thing that comes to everyone’s mind is «Effigy of the Forgotten» and «Butchered At Birth». 2 landmark albums that many ape in a good or not so good way, but two albums that set the baton to give birth to a new generation of bands that would push the boundaries a few miles further. Bands like Monstrosity, Dying fetus, Mortician, Internal Bleeding (slam), Malignancy, Broken hope and of course Cryptopsy. What happened from 1993 onwards was truly unimaginable and it was Brutal Death that kept the genre alive as most classic bands scattered, experimented or followed the marketing guide given to them by their labels to be more appealing to their buyers.

But are these two albums the ones that defined this sound? And what are the characteristics for an album to be brutal enough. Death Metal is violent in itself and BLOODBATH had said «brutality comes through simplicity» but in music things are more complex. Are blastbeats enough? Probably but Sarcofago had it and Sepultura in «Antichrist». Is it the guttural vocals? Maybe but a lot of bands had deep throats like Stefan Harrvik – Necrophobic, Scott Reigel – Brutality, Kyle Symons – Hateplow. Is it the heaviness on the guitars?… Hmmm and Napalm Death on Harmony had concrete guitars. So what are we left with? Complexity… The combination of all of these together but in such a way that it puts pressure on you and makes every nerve cell feel stretched.

So let’s go to two albums that for me started what was later called Brutal or even technical Brutal Death.

PESTILENCE – Consuming Impulse (RC) A heavy album that starts with a clear desire to break the simplistic pattern of Leprosy and Severed Survival. Mountain sound and as soon as «Dehydrated» comes in and the sudden blocking during the riff you think you’re hitting the brakes on the highway while you’re running at 100, what are you doing we’re going to get killed?… relax enjoy because this album is very interesting. Guitars playing different themes from each other , busier work and drums with a plethora of ideas. «Process of Suffocation» really doesn’t let you catch your breath, «Suspended Animation» with the mid-track keyboards and the abrupt tempo changes as the song runs leave you speechless. «Trauma» starts off with a reverse snare effect and with details like these the album is very special. Let’s move on to «Out of the Body» where the opening riff is the main riff of «Infecting the Crypts»…Exhume the wretched body from its timeless slumber…. A lawsuit could have been filed here by the Dutch. The whole album is highly technical «Chronic Infection» with a highlight being Marko Foddis on the slow-moving double kicks under a gagging cut riff of «Reduced to Ashes». Don’t believe me? Ask George Torres of Dehumanized, Skinless, Mortician who has it tattooed on him.

ATROCITY – Hallucinations (NB) A year later in 1990. Who is BMW and who is Porsche. Here German technology has laid down all the tools, drawing compasses, protractors, lots of hallucinogens and a dash of Carcass. Where to start. From the dismorfic guitar themes, the Jazz influences? Your head is probably not used to holding so much variety. The improvisation and acuity of implementation and execution on a practical level verges on scientific approach. If «Hold Out (To the end)», «Last temptation» and «Life is a long and silent river» aren’t brutal then what is? Classical music pulled out of the hair? It’ll do… Listen to Malignancy’s cover of the title track «Hallucinations» and hear how perfectly it blends into their sound. Like a glove….