Immediacy is a two-edged sword. In a consumer-driven, instant gratification-centered culture, the ability to sink your hooks into a listener/viewer/reader from their first interaction with content is tantamount to success in many sectors of media. Often, it’s not even about the content contained within a given piece or work, but simply whether the tagline was catchy and compelling enough to get you to interact with it in the first place. One need only skim stories from both reputable and less-than-savory news outlets to determine the efficacy of that statement. In the span of writing this paragraph, I clicked on two news stories about the election that offered absolutely nothing new as far as information is concerned, but the titles of these articles compelled interaction. This latter portion, to me, is the two-edged sword of immediacy mentioned above. Immediacy does not equate to quality.
What does any of this have to do with death metal? In the realm of music, I think it’s a fitting topic for discussion given the sheer breadth of content available to listeners. With a few simple taps of my fingertips I can jump from Thom Yorke to Emperor to Frédéric Chopin to The Lost Boyz with instantaneous speed. Music composition itself seems to have caught up to this trend, with bands dropping singles over albums and front loading their full-length works just to get listeners on board as quickly as possible. It’s a reactive strategy that makes a lot of sense from a business perspective, but in my experience often serves as a pristine wax job on a beat up Nissan Altima. So I very rarely judge an artist by the quality of their singles, or an album by its opening track.
Which brings us to Denver death metal heroes Of Feather and Bone. When judging the band’s brief discography to this point, the immediacy of their songwriting becomes evident. Their breakthrough record Bestial Hymns of Perversion was an instantly jarring slab of straightforward and disgusting death metal that passed in a blur. Clocking in at just over 30 minutes in length, not a single track overstayed its welcome. It was immediacy on acid, a work of filthy art that gripped you from its opening frame and never lost the sense of pummeling in-your-face aggression that made it so appealing to begin with. More than most bands in the metal world, Of Feather and Bone understand that grabbing your attention is only part of the equation. Keeping the level of interest listeners give an album’s singles or opening track throughout a full-length sequence of tracks is the key to a successful record, and with their third full-length outing, Sulfuric Disintegration, the band accomplish that and a whole lot more.
“Regurgitated Communion” kicks things off in a manner that speaks directly to the topic at hand. It’s an engrossing, instantaneous gut punch of a death metal track that will leave fans of the band’s previous work and death metal in general reeling. The riffs are oddly catchy and thoroughly punishing, producing on a “melodic” level an instantly memorable sequence that kicks off the record with a fiery gusto. The percussive work here is also superb, with Arthur Rizk’s mix serving up equal parts snapping clarity and overwhelming cacophony, perfectly highlighting the band’s principal strengths as musicians. It’s a blistering, smoldering, suffocating opening salvo that most bands would have a hard time topping or sustaining. Thankfully, Of Feather and Bone aren’t most bands.
Where things get interesting is in the gore-splattered middle section of the record, which not only builds on the intensity and immediacy of the album’s opener, but up the ante and transcend its fiery confines. “Entropic Self Immolation” takes all of the elements present in the album’s first few moments and builds on them in even more effective and sonically punishing ways. The main riff here is an absolute ear word, surging in and out with alacrity that would be expected in a band far more established than Of Feather and Bone, melding the sheer violence of Pissgrave with the thundering heaviness of Bolt Thrower and the seething evil of Our Place of Worship Is Silence. It’s a winning combination that serves the band well throughout the record, and sees its first true and inflammatory iteration here.
Things only get more interesting from here. “Noctemnania” pulls out the Dead Congregation stops by adding a death-doom dirge to the proceedings, echoing the work of doom-laden heroes like dISEMBOWELMENT without sacrificing their penchant for sudden bursts of frenetic violence. The album’s latter half is no less potent, with tracks like “Consecrated and Consumed” mixing the riff-forward directionality of Incantation with the speed and power of Slayer at their most violent. But it’s closer “Baptized in Boiling Phlegm” that both shuts the door on the album and seals the deal regarding its potency, combining all of the above elements into a rich and diverse whole that sees the band exiting stage left with confidence after 30 minutes of pure, unfiltered sonic obliteration. In short, it’s just about everything I could possibly want from a death metal record.
With Sulfuric Disintegration, Of Feather and Bone have not only built upon the success of their debut in every measurable metric, but also proven that it is possible to present a work of art that is both immediate and sustainably punishing. With their incredibly potent mix of catchy and memorable riffs, rich production, concise songwriting and fundamentally punishing approach to death metal, they’ve released one of the best and most thoroughly enjoyable metal records of the year. It’s possible to grip humans immediately and reward their attention with fantastic long-form content, and Of Feather and Bone are living proof of this argument. An utterly spellbinding record.
Sulfuric Disintegration sees release on November 13th.