Death metal has never been noted for its subtlety in terms of sound, imagery, or lyrical content. Take Russia’s Aborted Fetus, for instance; with the band’s name, the logo, and the apocalyptic (and often gory) album art, you pretty much know what to expect before you hit play. And that’s exactly what you’re getting with this year’s Pyramids Of Damnation, their 7th full-length record, marking their 20th anniversary.
Pyramids Of Damnation is a concept album (somewhat of a rarity in brutal death metal) based on the Biblical plagues in Egypt during the time of Moses. Sure, Nile have made a career out of delving into Egyptian history and mythology, but Aborted Fetus have managed to paint a suitably apocalyptic picture with this record. There are even occasional flashes of Egyptian/Middle-Eastern melodies injected into the band’s sound, as can be heard on the instrumental passage “Tomb of Damnation,” and the acoustic intro to “Queen’s Prophecy.” For the most part, however, Aborted Fetus stick to a pretty straightforward (though brutal) death metal sound, which sounds like a mix between Obituary, Bolt Thrower, and Dismember.
The vocals are a deep, guttural growl with a slightly raspy quality, falling somewhere between Frank Mullen (Suffocation) and Will Rahmer (Mortician). The guitars are super fuzzy sounding, similar to the Boss HM-2 pedal so often used on the early Swedish death metal records; in fact, I’m willing to bet that if there isn’t an HM-2 pedal on guitarist Meatgrinder’s pedal board, he at least has everything dialed in to mimic that tone. The bass guitar perfectly compliments the rhythm guitar on each track, giving the riffs a nice heavy low end, without making the tone muddy. The drums really shine on the mid-paced sections, of which there are a LOT; the thump of the bass and whallop of the snare really give the riffs a nasty, biting edge. On speedier sections, as can be heard on “Execution By Toads” (an unintentionally hilarious song title), however, the bass drum sounds a bit thin and “clicky.”
For the most part, the production is pretty solid though, as I mentioned, the drums lose a little bit of power on the faster sections. The breakdowns and slower sections absolutely crush, and the guitar solos absolutely soar over the mix, as can be heard at the beginning of “Fear Of Darkness.” The solos and interludes provide some much needed melody because, unfortunately, this type of death metal tends to get a bit atonal. Normally that doesn’t become an issue, but here the sameness of a lot of these tracks are highlighted by the fact that this record clocks in at nearly an hour and a half! That’s a lot of goddamn death metal, and even with instrumental breaks here and there, Pyramids Of Damnation can be a bit of a slog. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that this album is bloated, but it could have been trimmed a little, possibly even split between a full-length and a follow-up EP. Still, Aborted Fetus are pretty damn good at what they do, and have crafted a ferocious album around an interesting concept. Due to its length, I’m not sure how many times I’d have the patience to listen to the whole record, but there are some pretty killer tracks that stand out, such as “Abscesses On My Body” and “Locust Of Death,” so it can be consumed in smaller doses. If you like your death metal a bit more mid-paced and oldschool, Pyramids Of Damnation is worth checking out, especially for fans of Obituary and the mid-paced material from Bolt Thrower.