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Decent, if slightly disappointing
on March 24, 2007
Dying Fetus is easily one of the most important and influential technical/brutal death metal/grindcore bands of this past decade. Although several groups have tried (see Misery Index, All Shall Perish, and Despised Icon, among others), no one has been able to combine crushing heaviness, head-spinning velocity, mind-blowing technicality, and catchy "Heartwork"-style groove as skillfully and effectively as this Maryland-based quintet. And even though the group has forever been plagued with lineup changes (guitarist/vocalist John Gallagher is now the only remaining original member), they have always found a way to turn out punishing new death metal product.
DF's fifth proper full-length release, "War of Attrition," is a savagely brutal and uncompromising monster. It overflows with steamrolling rhythms, blazing tempos (there are only two speeds on offer here: very fast and lightning fast), hardcore-ish breakdowns, impossibly technical and complex musicianship (frenetic, relentlessly busy thrash riffs, smoke-inducing leads, fleeting melodic guitar sweeps that echo Necrophagist, careening solos, and impeccable, rapid-fire blast beats), grisly lyrics, and devilish, unintelligible vocals that would send the Cookie Monster running for cover.
Unfortunately, there is a big difference between being adherently technical and being adherently memorable. One could compare "War of Attrition" to an album like Origin's "Echoes of Decimation" and not be very far off base. "WoA" offers very few memorable hooks, and virtually no individually memorable riffs - the whole album just kind of dithers past, and very little sticks with the listener after the album is done playing in less than 40 minutes. Surely, there are a few parts that standout -- the mammoth, churning riffs and slamming drums in "Fate of the Condemned," the breakneck tempo changes and jackhammer drumming of "Raping the System," and the ripping, even borderline-melodic guitar solo in "The Ancient Rivalry" -- but they are few and far between. Plus, the musicianship heard here is always airtight and flawless, but it often comes dangerously close to sounding robotic. Thus, the music doesn't have the same visceral impact or urgency of old. Finally, newcomer Duane Timlin definitely proves that he can annihilate his trapkit as deftly as any other skinsman out there. But his drum patterns are sometimes even faster than every other instrument (its not uncommon for him to trample the guitar leads), so as a result, "War of Attrition" almost never locks into one of Dying Fetus' famous deep grooves.
So, "War of Attrition" makes for an overall satisfying listen, but only because of the band's virtuosic musicianship and relentless pummel -- the songwriting on display here is clearly lacking a bit. Dying Fetus' revolving door lineup seems to have finally taken its toll on the band, as this disc is not on par with such classics as "Destroy The Opposition" and "Stop At Nothing." Thus, longtime fans may think of "WoA" as a bit of a disappointment, but it's still a recommended listen to everybody who enjoys math/tech/brutal death metal and death-grind.