Written by Kep
Dead and Dripping – Blackened Cerebral Rifts
> Technical brutal death metal
> New Jersey, US
> Releasing August 11
> Transcending Obscurity Records
Sometimes I enjoy listening to shit that makes me feel like my brain might implode or shatter into pieces if I try too hard to really understand it. Real non-Euclidean geometry, comprehend-at-your-own-risk, Color Out of Space sort of stuff, ready to reach its tendrils into my head once I’ve delved in a little too deep. For whatever reason these sorts of albums tend to lie in the realm of brutal death, and 2023 has already seen a few great entries that had me fearing for my sanity—those from Nithing, Paroxysm Unit, and Trichomoniasis, of course. And now here comes Dead and Dripping to once again tip the plane of my lucidity askance.
The New Jersey-based one-man outfit, of course named after the Cryptopsy song, first surfaced back in 2016 with a demo. It would be four years before the project’s first LP in 2020, and another before the sophomore outing in 2021. There’s a pretty clear progression and upward trajectory in those releases, as mastermind Evan Daniele took a very raw brutal death sound with your standard violence-and-gore lyrics and developed it into something ever more polished, alien, and unique. Blackened Cerebral Rifts is the culmination of that progression, a monstrous extraterrestrial fortress of bizarre riffage, glowing uncannily within a cloak of spectral haze.
The first thing you’ll notice once when you press play is that the production is nothing short of killer. Well-balanced across the instrumentation, the sound is massively heavy and thick but doesn’t sacrifice any of its vivid layers of clarity. That means that you hear every rippling bass lick, every lightning-intense arpeggio jumps out, and even the gurgliest Predator click vocals are clearly audible, all while the whole weighs as much as a cyclopean fortress. And it’s light years away from that clean, overprocessed sound that so many techy bands skew towards; this thing carries the grit of several thousand journeys’ worth of space dust in its parts, yet shimmers luminously like a strange prism in black light nonetheless.
The second thing you’ll notice is than Daniele’s riffing trends away from the groove-heavy style of much brutal death. Instead your footing never feels truly solid, the hunks of foundation beneath you always shifting and cracking and sliding across one another. Even in the very first riff of opener “Tragic Ascent of Absurdity’s Pale Moon”—get used to song titles like that, by the way, this is one of those albums—the meter refuses to solidify, adding a beat here, then a beat and a half in the same spot on the next cycle. You get acquainted with and used to this sort of nonstop syncopated twitching brutality until it starts to feel almost like the norm, and then something slower and a bit more square wallops you. The first half of “Infinitely Plummeting into Violet Portals of Delusion” does this in a particularly effective way, calculatedly adjusting its assault over and over, thrashing and throttling before lumbering about. It makes the record’s bruising power all the more effective, since you’re never sure exactly when the next blow is coming. Muscular cords of guitar and bass surge and dilate in thick undulating waves and bursts, unexpectedly snapping to and fro in merciless violence. The rare moment that falls into something like a groove is hideous and deformed, lurching with tremendous weight. The opening section of “Molecular Degradation upon Warped Onyx Stoves” has that sort of mammoth stomp to it, as does the shuddering, halting pattern that dominates the back end of “Humanoid Statues Parading Condescending Gestures”.
The Demilich and Wormed comparisons will definitely run strong in reviews for Blackened Cerebral Riffs, and for good reason. There’s the obvious oddball alien riffs, downtuned heaviness, and the deep belching growls, but beyond that surface stuff: few bands manage to sound this bewilderingly complex and technical without losing the songwriting plot. The riffs fly fast and heavy for a full 45 minutes but Daniele avoids oversaturating the songs with too many ideas. In fact, despite the tracks’ substantial lengths—of the nine, only two are shorter than four minutes, and one of those is instrumental interlude “Hopeless Desire for Reprieve”—they feel very tightly focused overall, and once you’ve gotten the riff ideas of each one into your ears the songs are all quite distinct from one another. Take my fave “Meticulously Unraveling the Serpentine Consciousness” as an example. It essentially has five sections: three fast battering riffs, the first of which is desperately contorted, then a catchy ear worm fourth that takes up a good half of the runtime and feels particularly closely related to the fifth. Daniele variates that big motif with drum patterns and picking style and lays down a monstrous steely bass solo beneath it that’ll have you scrubbing back to hear it again.
THE BOTTOM LINE
When it comes to uncompromising whirling eldritch brutality, few bands are doing it at the level of Dead and Dripping here on what is easily the project’s best offering. Blackened Cerebral Rifts is a journey into the horrid cosmic abyss that you’ll be eager to take over and over again, regardless of how much of your sanity each trip consumes. Delve in deeply, but don’t forget to steel your mind.