Review Summary: Necrophagist's first album is blistering and brutal, mixing technicality with great death metal riffing.
From the first blistering moments “Foul Body Autopsy” to the blazing solo that ends “Fermented Offal Discharge” this album slays. Lightning fast riffing, punishing blast beats and low and guttural vocals come together in a near perfect mix on this disc, displaying the proper formula for technical death metal. Every track features superb guitar and bass work, excellent vocals and unique song structuring. That all of it was done by one guy (except for actually tracking the drums) is in this case only another unbelievable element of how good this record is, not an excuse in any way.
There seems to be two sets of tracks here – they differ mostly in production value but also feature slightly different songwriting and riffing. The first group (tracks 1-3, 6 and 8) are a bit rougher with faster paced and more energetic riffing while the second group has an aesthetic more like the following album, Epitaph, a slightly more sterile feel with less distortion and riffs that seem to creep and slink around rather than pounding and chugging. The second group, unfortunately, is really the only flaw with the album – not because the songs aren’t good but because they aren’t mixed as well. The overall sound is thinner and seems to have a bit less substance, moving towards the flat and crappy production of later tech-death bands. Luckily this sound is mostly avoided, only approached, and as far as flaws go most be perfectly suited to know that is just about all that’s wrong.
The first group, though, features the albums best songs and gets things off with a blast. Literally. “Foul Body Autopsy” starts with fast and heavy blast beats underpinning a chunky and frantic riff. When the vocals come in the sound is completed in a beautiful way. The deep growls are awesome and fit excellently with the heavy sound and distortion of the guitars and the full sound of the bass (which can actually be heard!). The first three songs all feature this great sound and fast death mtal riffs plus moments of technical insanity. The solo on every song is super fast and about as metal as can be. “Mutilate the Stillborn” also features great licks attached to the ends of riffs that add to the frenzied feel of the music. Perhaps the best track on the album, “To Breathe in a Casket” breaks up the furious riffing and double bass with a lurching, grooving section in the middle. This is probably the best example of how good a songwriter Muhammed is. The different sections and riffs repeat enough for you to know what song you’re listening to (a pitfall for many “tech” labeled bands) and build up the apprehension but don’t get tedious or irritating.
It’s tempting to label the songwriting as the greatest aspect of the album but then it’s tempting to do the same with the guitar or even the drums. The truth is there is no one element which shines above the rest; they all combine to create something truly great. The guitar is super fast and super technical and the riffs on “Foul Body…” Mutilate…”, and “Fermented Offal Discharge” are all great death metal guitar work. The varying tones are also well used. The solos feature a clean and slick yet menacing sound whereas the rhythm guitar has a great crunchy feel and there are a number of other sounds used throughout that add to the diversity of sound and keep the songs interesting. The drum lines are in many places very interesting and (surprise, surprise) technical as well, shifting from straight up death metal blasts to more intricate and offbeat rhythms. The bass is great, easily distinguishable from the guitars and at times coming to the forefront with a great lick, such as “To Breathe in a Casket”. The vocals are delivered wonderfully and are yet another area where the album outdoes the competition.
Of course the most common topic of discussion when Necrophagist is mentioned is the soloing. As I said, it’s tempting to hail this as the albums crowning achievement; the solos truly are insane. All the little runs and licks scattered throughout the riffs are just teasers, little hints at what’s to come. Some are longer and blazingly fast, such as “Fermented…,” and “Intestinal Incubation.” Some are short and sweet, such as on “Foul Body,” and still others, such as in “Culinary Hyperversity,” raise the hairs on your back. All of them, though, are jaw-dropping. First because of their speed, second because of their technicality and complexity and third because of their musical aptitude. The solos all have different feels, fitting the songs they’re contained in adding to the songs at the same time. The solo in “Culinary…” is truly evil sounding, slicing through your organs just like in the song. The solo in “Extreme Unction” has a stunted and stumbling feel with mildly awkward phrasing that fits perfectly with the momentum of the song’s main riff. They’re not just arpeggios and scale runs; they’re actually well written and musically interesting solos. Well, for death metal at least.
What else can be said? Everything here is good, even if you don’t think of yourself as a Necrophagist fan. It’s a truly devastating album that’s heavy, technical and catchy all at once.