Even by metal standards, brutal death metal is a controversial topic. Plenty of longtime metal fans can’t stand the over-the-top subgenre, while introducing it to the heavy music-curious is essentially a nonstarter. There’s simply no way to ease someone into a style of music that prides itself on relentlessness and aggression.
Even more steeped in controversy: slam. Long derided as too simplistic and repetitive, the very mention of the microgenre tends to elicit groans or excitement, with very few emotions in between. But for the growing number that enjoy slam for what it is – raging riffs, guttural growls, and unrelenting aggression – there’s nothing more exciting than seeing a new wave of releases from both new and established acts. For a microgenre often critiqued by outsiders as lacking creativity, this fresh onslaught of energy is introducing inventive variations to the established range of slam characteristics.
Case in point: Apocalypto, the first full-length album by Indonesian brutal death metal/slam band Anthropophagus Depravity. Hailing from Yogyakarta, the five-man group released Apocalypto in partnership with Comatose Music, home of brutal giants like Kraanium and Pathology.
Alternately relying on frenetic riffs and interludes of war marches, Apocalypto is a bloody ode to the human sacrifices performed by the Mayans. The album is a rapid-fire 34 minutes, blasting listeners with the ferocity and fervor that would’ve inspired religious devotees giving their gods the ultimate sacrifice. Given that historians believe most Mayan sacrifices were high-ranking prisoners of war, the soundbites of marches build a heavy atmosphere that contrasts against the punishing pace and sickening growls. It’s easy to imagine a defeated general being dragged to their death at the hands of a mob high on faith and the sacrificial rite.
Like a good horror movie, good brutal death metal keeps things interesting with pacing. Though this is just their second offering, Anthropophagus Depravity does an impressive job building a horror atmosphere with the creative (and liberal) use of cinematic effects. Track seven, “Ruthless Nation Perished,” ends with a genuinely creepy narration that sounds like a child carrying out the sacrificial rite. Accompanied by yes, slashing sounds, a woman screaming, and a death march, the brief interlude adds sudden contrast and a sense of horror to what’s otherwise an onslaught of brutality. Every song is a punishing mix of pulverizing grooves and chunky riffs, creating an album that’s sheer aggression and extremely enjoyable for any brutal death metal fan.
Apocalypto is an audio assault that will easily satisfy brutal death metal fans. Sure, the theatrical sound effects and straightforward, no-nonsense riffs might only appeal to a limited audience, but for those people, Anthropophagus Depravity is a welcome addition. As a slam fan, I’m excited to see more bands produce not just aggressive music, but introduce their own twist on the over-the-top themes that define slam. It’s just more proof that when it’s done well, slam is a fun, inventive strain of brutal death metal that continues to build a loyal audience around the world.
Apocalypto dropped on July 2nd. You can grab it right here.