Review Summary: Decrepit Birth, diminishing between worlds, exploding between albums. This, dare I say, is an amazing album. With a name like Decrepit Birth you would think that the band is only creating a lot of extremely punishing death metal. You'd be wrong.
As I start this review I find myself in the awkward position on not wanting to come off as a Decrepit Birth fan-boy. I’m going to try my best to stay as objective, which may prove to be a complicated task. This, dare I say, is an amazing album. With a name like Decrepit Birth you would think that the band is only creating a lot of extremely punishing death metal. You would be wrong. Though they are extremely brutal, they are also very talented, making them one hell of a technical death metal band. Like all really good tech death bands these guys exhibit flourishes of jazz infused metal chops. Let me back up a minute, I’m getting ahead of myself. Until 3 days ago all I knew of Decrepit Birth was from their Myspace page. The only music of theirs that I had heard were the select tracks they have posted there (3 of which are from the new album). I was interested though, knowing KC Howard was their drummer and finding myself liking his other band, Odious Mortem’s latest release more and more since I got it several months ago. What changed 3 days ago? I saw them open for Hate Eternal, 3 inches of Blood and The Black Dahlia Murder at the Palladium in Worcester , MA . Though the band was plagued by horrible sound during their set (which was most likely just the venue itself and the opening slot equals bad sound syndrome), I could hear through the mix and what I heard was some great guitar playing and what I saw was a whirlwind of non-stop madness behind the drums. I already had intentions to pick up their new album, Diminishing Between Worlds, when it’s released next week (1/29), and then to my surprise the band was selling it at their merch table. So on my way out of the show that night, I stopped and bought it from none other than Bill Robinson, their vocalist. I told him I enjoyed their set, which is true despite the sound, and he seemed genuinely appreciative that I was buying the CD and I was on my way. Dreading the nearly 3 hour drive home from the show (which may seem like a lot, but for an opportunity to see Hate Eternal, it was worth it) I was excited to have some new tunes to listen to. I put in the CD and off I went. I wasn’t expecting what I got, which was blown away. I cranked the thing and listened to it all the way through, 3 times (and several more times since). Other than thinking I was going to hear technical death metal with some pretty cool drumming I had no expectations, I had an open mind about what I was going to hear.
A lot has been said over the years that there is no new ground left to cover in death metal. That most bands lack the ability to do anything original, which many say isn’t their fault, just the limitations of the style of music they choose to play. Thankfully Decrepit Birth guitarist and main songwriter Matt Sotelo isn’t paying attention to any of this. Decrepit Birth is about to unleash on an unsuspecting world what just may be the one of the most fresh and innovative death metal albums of the new millennium. You could argue there have been better albums released recently, but I think it would be hard for anyone to convincingly say there has been one as unique as this.
The first thing I noticed about the CD right away was I had to turn up my stereo louder than normal. Was this going to be a sign of poor production (a personal pet peeve)? A recent trend in the production of metal albums has been to pump up the overall volume by clipping the highs and lows of the sound by compressing it. Don’t believe me? Grab your favorite metal album on CD from 10 years ago and something brand new, put on and compare the two. You will find that you either have to turn down the new one or turn up the old one. This is not just advances in technology; it’s a push to have louder CDs. What happens in the process of clipping is you lose a lot of the little nuances of the music. To the credit of Matt Sotelo and Decrepit Birth they bucked the current trend for what is a better sounding album. So you have to turn it up. Man, that’s what it used to be all about. It makes for a much better sounding album in the end. And yeah, the production values are top notch on this album. I think there is a science to properly recording a set of drums and it has been done right, here. The sound is crisp, clear and organic. Yes there are triggers on the kick drums, but that just comes with the territory these days. It’s not an overly processed sound like many of today’s bands have. It’s a great balance. The guitar tones are just right. There is good separation so you can hear both guitars clearly but mixed in such a way that the playing compliments each other. You can also hear the bass, which is not just copying the guitar parts, but adding flavor to the music with some well written and played bass lines. The big surprise to all of this is that Sotelo has written and plays all of the guitar and bass parts on this album (no worries live; they have filled out the band with members of Odious Mortem for touring purposes). This dude is a genius. The only thing I would change in the mix at all is to turn up the vocals (effective, relentless, guttural death metal style) just a bit. That’s not a complaint. It’s just they don’t stand out in the mix the way the guitars and drums do. I guess not everything can, can it?
I’m going to “borrow” a few lines from another review of this album because it goes a long way to describe what’s going on far better than I ever could; “The guitars do not mimic each other, most of the time they are playing independent contrapuntal melodies that flow together for some crushing atonal riffs. They also utilize a kind of instrumental chorus; drums switch into slow steady blast mode, rhythm guitar slows down while harmonizing lead melodies flow over. Perfect”. Remember, this is just one guy (two counting the drummer) doing this. What I saw live in the whirlwind of madness behind the drums is exactly what you hear on the album. KC Howard has to be one of the best (and most underrated?) death metal drummers out there today. The drumming is tight and technical. There is a lot going on and it takes a few listens to catch it all, if you’re not paying attention, you’ll miss something. That doesn’t mean that there is so much going on that it’s distracting, the sum of the parts is far greater than any individual pieces. It all comes together nicely in one cohesive slab of brutal music. There is an incredible sense of attention to detail here. The drums are a force to be reckoned with.
I gather from other reviews I’ve read of this album and the band’s debut, ...And Time Begins, that Diminishing Between Worlds is a complete turn around for the band. I would go as far as to say that is shows some real maturity with the band finding its identity, its groove. As long as they can keep this line up together (which is hard thing to do these days) we can expect great things from these guys and their future is bright. Since the core of Decrepit birth is Matt, Bill and KC with Matt doing the bulk of the writing, if they change a bass player or second guitarist or two along the way they should be ok. Line-up changes are inevitable, but I think if these three can weather any changes (as they have done thus far), they will be ok. KC is not their original drummer, but he should be their permanent one. Hopefully splitting his time between Decrepit Birth and Odious Mortem will not prove to be too much. I think this is an album people will be talking about in 10 years as a landmark death metal album and hopefully they are still cranking out great stuff in that time as well.
If you haven’t heard these guys yet, I can’t say enough good about this album to get you to seek it out. If you have heard them before, but weren’t crazy about what you heard or were indifferent, then I strongly urge you to give them another chance. Everyone deserves a second chance. They won’t disappoint.