Written by Kep
Becerus – Homo Homini Brutus
Death metal from Italy
Releasing April 30
via Everlasting Spew Records
Quick, without thinking too deeply about it, what’s the complaint you most often hear from non-fans about extreme metal? For me, it’s this smartass gem, undoubtedly delivered in the most strident of whines: “You can’t even tell what they’re saying.” I’m pretty sure that the gentlemen of Becerus have heard that before, too, because this project exists pretty much to serve as the world’s most entertaining middle finger to that insufferable objection.
Not familiar with Becerus? No problem. Let me give you the speediest and most apt description I can think of: what if caveman metal, but actually literally caveman? That translates to thick, bludgeoning death metal riffage, drums so massive they could literally pound you to sludge, and filthy animalistic vocals that consist of lots of grunting and plenty of snarling, but absolutely no words. Yup, that’s right, in case you completely missed the implication there: this band’s vocalist literally just grunts and barks like a Neanderthal.
Skeptical? I was too, at least a little bit. But the thing about Homo Homini Brutus, Becerus’ debut album, is that it’s so tongue-in-cheek and amusing that I can’t help but love the hell out of it. There’s something to be said for the nerve it takes to start a project like this with so ridiculous and straightforward of a premise, and then there’s even more to be said for actually making it work. And I’m going to say those things, because, for the most part, this album is a damn enjoyable listen.
Hailing from Italy, Becerus is essentially a side project, made up of two scene veterans and one anonymous member. Guitarist/bassist Giorgio Trombino is a busy man, most notably handling everything but drums in excellent death/doom band Assumption, as well as multiple instruments in a few other outfits, including stoner doom groups Elevators to the Grateful Sky and Sergeant Hamster. Vocalist Mario Musumeci has been the vocalist for deathgrinders Balatonizer since the late 90s. The mystery man behind the kit is known here as Paul Bicipitus, and you’d better believe that I spent some time Googling “Italy drums death metal Paul” to see if I could figure out his real identity. No luck though, so until I figure it out I’m using the mental image of the Geico caveman as a visual stand-in. I’m pretty sure the band would be cool with that.
Make no mistake, folks, this album is definitely every bit as battering and brutal as the caveman premise implies, but what I was surprised by was just how well the idea holds up over the course of the 10 tracks that make up the runtime. Those tracks adding up to less than 25 minutes in total is certainly related, but it’s not the whole story. The biggest reason is the riffs, which are actually really damn solid, consistently maintaining a balance that pairs IQ-lowering devastation with juuuuust enough notable technicality to keep it interesting. Lots of straightforward, gory death metal bands are touchpoints here, but the most obvious ones are early Cannibal Corpse and Broken Hope. There’s plenty of balls-to-the-wall thrashing, like the vicious main verse riff of “Circular Deficiency”, or in the blasting chaos of that makes up the middle chunk of “Marginal Presence”. Giorgio’s guitar solos are impressive, too, breaking up the primordial violence with freeing moments of ripping shred. Becerus is as their best, though, in songs like “Balordicus”, where a slower pace and an emphasis on outrageous heaviness results in elephants-marching riffs that are like a stone cudgel pounding your bones to dust. The band calls Homo Homini Brutus “a declaration of love for 90s death metal,” and that’s an extremely fitting way to think about it.
I totally get that Becerus is mostly supposed to be silly, but I actually found that it was pretty easy to forget that Mario’s vocals were complete gibberish, which is a credit to the way he delivers them. He mixes up inflections and sounds, sometimes spitting out rapid-fire gutturals, like in bludgeoning lead single “Primeval Ignorantia”. Other times he opts for a more moderate-speed delivery, while still others pushing his voice upward for sustained hoarse mid-ranges, as he does several times in my dark horse pick for best track (and hilariously named) “Hymn to Ungainly Corpulence”. I mean, if you’re listening with intent, you can totally tell that the things coming out of Mario’s mouth are nonsense. But given the fact that he’s just growling out total gobbledygook, it’s surprisingly…dynamic? That being said, if it was me, I might have chosen to keep the vocals a bit less prominent; I get that they’re leaning into the caveman theme, but in the grand scheme of things what’s happening is that an emphasis is being placed on the least musically interesting aspect of the band.
Look, I don’t think there’s a metalhead in existence that doesn’t enjoy some low-IQ, ignorantly heavy meathead death metal from time to time. Sometimes you get an itch that only a hefty slab of brutality will scratch. The next time you feel that way, you could do far worse than to throw on Homo Homini Brutus and get a little primitive. Becerus’ sneakily intelligent prehistoric riffage is sure to provide a colossal bone club to the face of a good time.
Favorite track: Hymn to Ungainly Corpulence