Album Review: Afterbirth – Four Dimensional Flesh 8 (Brutal Death)

Written by Carcassbomb

  • Afterbirth
  • Four Dimensional Flesh
  • Brutal Death/Prog/Tech
  • Long Island, NY
  • March 13, 2020
  • Via Unique Leader Records (Merch Link)
  • 8/10

At first I thought this was just bad lofi death but as the album progresses, the more intrigue is revealed. There’s a strong The Chasm influence here and the premise seems to be a modern version of that with some newer, brutal ideals brought into the cosmic mix. They do well to achieve the atmosphere but the more straightforward heavier segments fall a bit flat beneath the intentionally muddy production. It works better in some places than others. The underlying thesis is solid however, something refined from decades of being a band and also having members experienced in other bands. Overall it’s one of the more interesting albums on the Unique Leader roster that you can listen to for yourself when it’s released on Friday the 13th.

The song writing is way off the beaten path compared to most brutal death. There’s a very obvious halfway point on the album with “Minimum Safe Distance” after which the album expands and the atmosphere becomes the key to it all. The vocals work well with the dark crawling vibes, utilising a very low register but not so low that it sounds meme-like, there’s a technical balance on hand. The additional vocals are much higher shrieking that sticks to the back to provide some supportive accentuation, going nicely with the ashtray gurgles. Many will be familiar with the vocalist, Will Smith from Artificial Brain, which makes a lot of sense. Like A LOT of sense, Four Dimensional Flesh feels like a slowed down Artificial Brain at times and with more “melody”.

The driving force behind this album however is the rhythm section. The drums and bass are highly active and provide a lot of much needed energy to push the atmospherics and theatrics as far as possible. They prevent the album from falling into a pit. It probably helps to have an experienced bass player such as David Case who was also in Helmet, a criminally underrated band when talking about 90’s grunge. The tones on the bass are meaty man… it sounds loose and wet, like kneading raw mince with your fists and churning it around. The instruments are given a lot of time without vocals to develop ear pricking progressions, so it’s great that tone and pacing are so well done because it allows for everything to flow together without relying solely on one member or instrument.

The artwork for this cover is incredible, done by Kishor Haulenbeek who has a good style as well as an eye for anatomy, despite this cover in particular not really highlighting that aspect of their work. There’s a lot to look at here at all parts of the image – it’s like a Where’s Wally of the macabre. The look goes hand in hand with the sound, providing a duality of psychedelia and hysteria. The sense of wonder paired with the dread of an imminent space spider attack. The same artist did the cover for the band’s previous album The Time Traveler’s Dilemma, which I certainly intend to check out after hearing this far out offering.

Afterbirth: Bandcamp / Spotify / Facebook / Instagram

This is an album that doesn’t necessarily compete with the biggest releases this year but does offer a stimulating discourse – a kind of death metal sideshow that plays by its own rules. There’s elements for people to appreciate and elements for people to find repulsive in equal measure. Some people will adore this album and others won’t see the sense in it at all. The truth is somewhere between the two, I found the album highly enjoyable but do feel like there’s something more that could be done, or perhaps one element that could have been tweaked… probably the mixing. It needed to be more dynamic rather than a blanket over every aspect of the sound.

Check it out if you’re a fan of brutal death metal as it does bring a lot to the table that other bands just aren’t focusing on, or wouldn’t even think to. It’s unique in terms of the current scene but in the context of metal history I’ve definitely heard and enjoyed a similar audio thesis a lot in the past. Which makes sense considering Afterbirth have been kicking it since the 90’s, bringing a part of their time along with them to combat 2020’s played out sensibilities.

8/10


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