In recent years, Pittsburgh based label 20 Buck Spin has become a bit of a herald of the OSDM revival, scooping up bands on the cutting edge of the genre in the weird offshoots (VoidCeremony, Bedsore), those furthering the cause for dank and cavernous no-frills death metal (Fetid, Cerebral Rot), and those lurking somewhere in between (Tomb Mold). Holding down that meaty end of the spectrum, Seattle’s Cerebral Rot received quite a warm welcome from the online death metal scene in late 2019 when they dropped their debut full-length Odious Descent of Decay, as it offered a valuable distillation and representation of the meat-and-potatoes OSDM zeitgeist of the moment.
Sure, Cerebral Rot weren’t reinventing any wheels on Odious Descent, but the riffs had groove and heft, the solos were ridiculous in all the right ways, and the production and performances were adequately jagged and disgusting. The record was engaging in the way that this side of the genre should be, and it was a truly great record, and a personal favorite of mine from the year. From then, Cerebral Rot were one of the more promising new acts in death metal and a flagship artist at 20 Buck Spin.
Now two years and a pandemic later, Cerebral Rot have returned with their sophomore offering, Excretion of Mortality. Offering more of the same would have been a fair plan of attack for the sophomore LP, but aside from some notable exceptions in its span, Excretion sees the band simplifying their sound a bit further. The average tempo has dropped a few points, at times giving the album more of a death-doom vibe, with thick reverberating chords dripping in mud and waste.
The opening title track is comfortable and familiar in the way it opens with swarming guitar leads and giving way to some plodding grooves and sporadic blasts and tritone guitar fills. “Vile Yolk Of Contagion” does briefly pick up the pace in its opening moments before dropping into mid-tempo sludgy death metal grooves with an over-the-top divebomb. Excretion of Mortality may be relatively lumbering, but it does highlight a strong Pantera influence; Dimebag’s presence is felt in the guitar lead tone and technique, and in sporadic pinch harmonic riffing, as heard in “Spewing Purulence” and “Retching Innards.”
The eleven minute finale “Crowning the Disgustulent” is the album’s highlight, and uses its lengthy runtime without waste. The opening moments see the band building tension and atmosphere, and using soundscapes to evoke the album’s set and setting. It would be easy (and a mistake) to draw parallels to such a stunt to that of Blood Incantation and Cryptic Shift‘s trend of lop-siding an album with an epic-length track, as there’s little in the way of experimentation here, but the track certainly sees the band at their most inspired, dynamic, and lively.
Truth be told, though, Cerebral Rot have found themselves in a bit of a sophomore slump with Excretion of Mortality. Even at faster paces, the songs feel robbed of urgency, and the whole affair just feels labored. The vocal performances are often weak and thin when you look beyond the effects and production (for instance, the section two minutes into “Bowels of Decrepitude” in particular). There’s minimal dynamic, which is damning considering the death-doom and groove metal influences that are made clear across the runtime. What we hear on Excretion of Mortality is Cerebral Rot becoming the pacer car of the current OSDM movement. The record is by no means bad, but the band are capable of doing more than crafting baseline death metal when their collective bag of tricks can be so much broader than this. Those aching for a slab of pungent death metal will surely have a good time regardless, and the music is every bit as disgusting as one would hope based on the grotesque cover art. I just wish there was more to it than that.
Cerebral Rot’s Excretion of Mortality was released June 25, 2021 on 20 Buck Spin, and can be purchased and streamed via the Bandcamp player above.