I’ve always thought of Dying Fetus as a good median in the contrasting, pulling streams of death metal. They seem on the surface to be firmly planted in the hurried, belligerent notation of tech death, and indeed, their music is often a jaw-dropping morass of combined ability, but they also stay true to the inherent precepts of death metal like few of their flippant brethren can. This manifests in the form of some legitimately dark riffing, and their showboating never goes so far overboard (heh) as to betray the primal simplicity of their consistent adherence to a naturally flowing tempo. Or, to put it simply, you can fucking headbang to it! Yes, you can have just as much fun rhythmically slamming your way through the pit as you can sitting in awe of each band member’s boundless, flabbergasting skill, and each seems to present just as enticing a scenario.
Opener Invert The Idols trades off between bludgeoning, jock mosh grooves and frenetic, spindly fret work, while Subjected to a Beating flows in a lock-step rhythm that consistently fires off into radical flourishes, the ever-aggressive John Gallagher belching out his desire to end your pathetic existence amidst a storm of blast beats and sharp, sheering leads. It feels like folly to continue detailing every track, since they are all essentially full-bodied death metal armadas. The base rhythmic spines are punishing, chugging, groove-carving war machines that scar the compositional landscape, clearing the way for sprays of machine-gunning double-bass and the hurried, fibrous notation of the winding, blinding, wholly satisfying guitar leads. Bassist Sean Beasley continues to mesh terrifically with Gallagher’s militaristic riffing, and his growls prove ever the strong partner to John’s grinding, frog-like lows. Drummer Trey Williams remains in the fray, matching the brutish intensity at every turn with effortless, whirlwind fills and deceptively simple beats as the situation demands.
At whatever tempo, the riffs are always war-like, rolling across the land like mid-tempo tanks or flying like fighter jets, acrobatic, avian swirls of fret-work soaring high above the bulldozing low-end reverberations. Whatever it happening, though, Dying Fetus have the unending ability to headbang firmly in mind. No matter how outlandish the flourishes and spurts of technicality are, they still work within the basic, chugging foundation of strong mosh pit rhythmic patterns, a fine line that explains their popularity within so many distinct sects within the death metal clans of the world.
Though I’d count myself as a bit more than a casual fan of the band, Dying Fetus have never been one to cling indelibly in my memory banks for long periods of time, or beg for a huge number of repeated listens, but Reign Supreme has proved equally as interesting and volatile each time I give it a spin, and I can’t see it leaving my rotation for at least the remainder of this year. I wouldn’t call it a defining masterpiece, like Cattle Decapitation’s Monolith of Inhumanity, but it sits side by side with Aborted and Cannibal Corpse as one of the strongest semi-technical death metal records released this year, not to mention the best the band have done in over a decade.
Historically, 2000’s Destroy the Opposition has been my favorite release from these virulent Marylanders, the inherent memorability of its riffing outclassing anything the band has released since, though they’ve yet to disappoint either, beyond their first few muddy releases. I can say pretty definitively that it still takes the top spot, but Reign Supreme is nipping at its heals, determined to live up to its blunt moniker. It really is very close, like, the length of a stillborn’s nosehair close, and Reign Supreme earns its silver medal with distinction.
There have been a number of great death metal releases this year, from battle-scarred veterans and starry-eyed newcomers alike, and Reign Supreme stands as tall and confident as any of them, showing no signs of relenting, even after 20 years spent pulverizing the scene. Fans of anything and everything brutal, step right up, and prepare yourselves for a hardened, professional ass kicking.