Review Summary: I'll be stabbing you every step of the way.
When a bunch of fellas name their band 200 Stab Wounds you know from the outset their lyrical themes will certainly not be revolving around the depth of human understanding or some metaphorical interpretation of our existence. It was as if we expected to find the meaning of life in a movie theater while watching Halloween, Friday the 13th, or The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. And although some serial killers might disagree, I want to believe the main message behind any slasher feast is something much more simplistic, related to both basic fear and sheer entertainment. 200 Stab Wounds orbits this same gruesome aesthetic, resorting to 18+ themes that are sure to delight any gore enthusiast wearing a Cannibal Corpse t-shirt. As a matter of fact, the progenitors of slasher death metal actually figure among the band's most obvious influences along with Slayer, Dying Fetus, or Internal Bleeding. A mix that generates a somewhat hybrid style that brings thrash and crossover flavors into a mostly groovy brutal death metal formula.
Slave to the Scalpel's
grooving nature is thus not only its most striking feature but also a distinguishing element of the band's DNA, alongside its ability to unleash a massive amount of killer riffs. The galloping Reign in Blood-ish 'Itty Bitty Pieces' or the groovy power chords on 'Stifling Stew' and 'Paths to Carnage' are among the album's best moments, simultaneously mirroring the band's strong thrash influences. The Inner Self-esque riff on 'Drilling Your Head' is also another prime example of the thrashy nuances that sprout throughout Slave to the Scalpel
. The interplay between the constant riff assault and the groovy rhythm section is 200 Stab Wounds' backbone and the axis through which everything orbits. But unlike peers like Cannibal Corpse or Dying Fetus, who infuse some rhythmic complexity into their output, the Cleveland boys roam through more straightforward territory which makes their death metal formula somewhat easy to digest, a bit like Sanguisugabogg or Undeath. And though this simplicity remains one of the band's greatest strengths, it's also the aspect that could be optimized, namely the more minimalist power chord segments that sometimes border on vulgarity. The addition of a more sophisticated layer in those moments would bring greater three-dimensionality to the songs without distorting the quartet's identity. The slam sections in songs such as 'Skin Milk' and 'Tow Rope Around the Throat', or the colorful pinch harmonics in 'Itty Bitty Pieces', should also be mentioned as they lend a peculiar character to the record while adding some extra spicy sauce to the mix.
Slave to the Scalpel
is everything its cover suggests - an overwhelming (18+) riff assault that stabs the listener every step of the way. The nine corpses left hanging at the morgue downstairs are just the beginning of a killing spree that is sure to bring chaos and bloodshed to our streets. And while the band's simplistic, straightforward approach still offers some room for improvement, its potential is undeniable, thus foreshadowing an even bloodier next chapter.