Alright, no more horsing around with Scandinavian dudes with unpronounceable names. Time to rep my city and talk about some Kansas City artists. I’ve got two new promos from two KC bands to review, and first on the chopping block is Marasmus, who’ve been kicking out the death metal jams since ’07 and who I saw opening for Nile earlier this year. In a way, their album Mountains of Dead is a throwback record – it asks the listener, “Remember 1991?” And not in a nostalgia kind of way, more like “Remember when it wasn’t cool to have reverb on metal records and labels were racing to sign any band that had death growls?” Yeah, this album’s like that.
Don’t get me wrong, it is competently executed. The members of Marasmus are capable musicians who crank out death metal jams quite deftly. The problem is that this record’s just straight-up boring to listen to. Tracks 2-4 are overcome by clicky, annoying-ass kick drums (the first one is an intro) and heard-it-before vocals. While I commend drummer Trynt Kelley for his speed and tightness, it’s a shame he wasn’t given more interesting songs to lend his talents to. “Gnostic Decimation” has only a guitar solo to break up its repetitive riffing, and “Bone Sculpture” alternates between would-be Cannibal Corpse-esque dissonant riffs with chugga-chugs. “Another Helpless Victim”, to its credit, switches up the breakneck speed and makes an earnest attempt to throw some interesting riffing into the mix, and I appreciate the effort, but the telephone effect vocals over the middle section don’t exactly sell me on the brutality.
Maybe the problem is me. Maybe at this point I’ve just listened to too much extreme metal and hearing something like this just isn’t shocking anymore. Then again, there are plenty of records that have come out this year that are truly heavy in my eyes, but what occurs to me now is that they all had the songwriting to back it up. And when you sacrifice your songwriting for brutality, those who are looking for meat on the bones of their death metal are left disappointed. Sure, “Shut the Fuck Up and Die” has a funny title and moves fast, but so does every other song on the record, begging the question as to why I should care. At least “Casket Made of Ivory” introduces some much-needed melodic elements…seven songs into the record. It’s too little too late, fellas. At least it’s short.
So better luck next time, Kansas City, and better luck next time, Marasmus. I recall you guys being pretty decent the last time I saw you, so I feel like if you branched out and tried to write actual songs instead of interchangeable blast-fests you might have something cool on your hands. As it is, though, I can’t give Mountains of Dead anything other than that “Good Try” ribbon they gave shrimpy kids in gym class.