Review Summary: Well executed death metal that makes up for a lack of originality with simple but effective songwriting and riffs.
Keith Merrow is something of a Youtube guitar celebrity, having a successful channel in which he tests all sorts of guitars and amps and other such geeky things. Despite his technical chops being of a pretty high standard, his previous musical installments under his own name were average at best, featuring a bit too much chug and not quite enough musical substance. Demisery is his project with Gord Olson, in which he plays death metal of a straightforward perspective of staying as deathly as possible and avoiding the dodgy Djent elements of his previous work. With a formula like that there's not exactly much room to go far off target, and here Keith certainly hits it, but not with perfect accuracy.
One slightly worrying feature of the album is programmed drums, which aren't nearly so bad as in his previous works, but are still somewhat synthetic and machinelike. This is somewhat glaring at the beginning of Vicious Stabbing
, with lifeless cymbal hits evident right from the beginning. Luckily though, Keith himself is a nimble fingered guitarist, executing fast and complex riffs with ease. Unlike with some of his other releases, his riffing here is pretty much entirely death metal inspired, and while occasionally melodic or particularly technical it's never jarringly off the pace. Luckily, he's capable of simplifying his playing to groovier riffs and longer tremolo picked lines (a la Human-era Death
) which prevents his playing from being too stagnant. Keith also plays bass on this album, but the bass feels irrelevant due to being put lower in the mix and the guitars being in a thick, lower mid frequency. The vocals on the album are solid all round, but Olson sounds best with a Schuldiner-style mid range growl, which sounds extremely solid and certainly add to the album.
The album begins somewhat tentatively, as the title track doesn't quite launch the album into motion, but provides a solid listen with simple but effective triplet riffing, before gaining momentum in the second half as it launches into a melodic solo and faster tremolo picked lines. The following track, Vicious Stabbing
, launches into fast and powerful riffs from the get go, and aside from a cheesy chorus, it provides a consistent and riffy attack that makes it one of the better tracks on the album. The Enlightener
, a clear album highlight, follows, with a series of strong and technical riffs executed at high speed and some of Olson's stronger vocals. The slower I, Warlord
gives a nice change of pace but still delivers the riffage to keep it entertaining. Thralldom
delivers entertaining Death-style riffing and doesn't try to overstate its presence too hard, making it one of the more entertaining tracks on the album. Insurmountable Devastation
provides more of the same, with some of the more catchy riffs on the album. Lastly, the album features an impressive cover of Death's Flattening Of Emotions
, where Olson demonstrates that he can sound almost exactly like Chuck, and that Keith can easily execute Chuck and Paul's solos, though the lack of any comprehensible bass part somewhat weakens it compared to the original song, which featured the mighty Steve DiGorio who added a lot to the overall song.
The main issue with Hive Of Mutation is that it is extremely unadventurous. Despite having good riffs across the board it doesn't have a whole lot of songwriting distinction to make it any better than "quite good". The songs are solid all round and there isn't really a weak track on the album but it does little to expand on the simple formula it relies on. Keith's slower guitar parts don't quite groove in a satisfying way either, and while decent they aren't exactly of the Obituary
class. Also, the album's second half falls somewhat in interesting features, and while Insurmountable Devastation
are solid and riffy tracks, nothing quite matches the strengths of the first half.
However, despite its flaws, Hive Of Mutation is an enjoyable album which should consistently satisfy people who have been looking for a simple, powerful modern death metal album with its old school-styles riffs and weight, as well as Olson's strong vocal performance.
Flattening Of Emotions