Written by Kep
Gutslit – Carnal
> Brutal death metal
> Releasing July 7
Brutal death metal isn’t really the subgenre you go to when you’re looking for innovation, if we’re being honest. Some particularly experimental and über-techy exceptions to the side, you usually know what you’re getting when you flip the play switch on some brutal death: fast, downtuned, gutter vocals, heavy as hell. The style wears on some people for its lack of dynamic and tempo variety, which is a real thing. The masters of brutal death, though, know exactly how to give you the familiar sounds you crave while also mixing things up enough to keep the listen fresh. Gutslit is one of those masterful bands.
Their 2013 debut Skewered in the Sewer was pretty typical brutal death fare, but when 2017’s Amputheatrecame along, that was where things got special. The addition of grindcore elements—specifically a diverse vocal approach, plenty of fast-thrashing breakneck chaos, and the occasional short song—suddenly made their sound a unique island in a sea of similarity, and their already well-developed sense for interesting song structures made for an album experience that was never samey or boring. Carnal continues that trend with eight tracks that will keep you on your toes, both on the macro and micro level.
Opener “Son of Sam” kicks things into high gear right off the top with a massive grooving chunky riff that drops into something more feisty and punchy for the first verse. Already on display is one of Gutslit’s greatest attributes: the ability to continuously give the listener plenty of anchor to maximize the pummeling effect, rather than leaving them to flounder in a flurry of ostinato blasts and bedlam with no landmarks. It’s as simple as quick rolls on the bass drum, decorative cymbal hits, or miniature fills that help orient the ear around well-written rhythmic riffs. Drummer Aaron Pinto rolls in and out of patterns with a ton of finesse, blasts shifting into rapid double-bass runs and then into syncopated bouncing and all the way back again without a hitch, constantly mixing things up rhythmically for optimal heaviness levels.
You’ll find that every song on Carnal has its own distinct energy and feel. The unbridled fire of “Matriarch” crackles through at high speeds, while tracks like “Body Snatcher” and “Altar of Putridity” feature main riffs that are more mid-tempo and spacious. “Insidious” is basically straight up grind, 42 seconds long and breakneck as all hell. Original vocalist Aditya Barve, who returns to the band after last appearing on Skewered in the Sewer, is a man possessed across the runtime, showcasing a variety of styles and registers. His main sound is a ferocious chesty roar, but he ventures into harsh death growls, good ol’ bree brees, grindcore banshee shrieks, and even vicious false vocal cord highs, never sticking to one style for long enough for it to get stale. There’s a fun vocal feature from Benighted’s Julien Truchan on “Bind Torture Kill”, too. This is Gutslit’s trademark since Amputheatre: monstrous brutal grooves and way more stylistic variety than any other band in their sphere.
The axe duo of Prateek Rajagopal (guitars and songwriting) and Gurdip Singh Narang (bass) hits so many deeply satisfying grooves, slams, and pulverizing riffs that it’s hard to keep track of them all. Hyperactive licks that skitter and writhe across the fretboard, like the first verse riff in closer “Primeval”, are balanced neatly against pinch-heavy brutal groove monsters and abyssal tremoloed lines. And if slams are your thing have no fear, because songs like “Altar of Putridity” include some absolute earthshakers. The technical ability on display is indisputable, even though aren’t solos generally part of Rajagopal’s songwriting arsenal; there is one here, though, halfway through “Body Snatcher”, and it’s a particularly impressive example that makes me wish there were more.
The bands’ lyrical/conceptual thrust for this record was “the intricate struggles of the human psyche”, which is an interesting concept for an album. In practice, though, it essentially boils down to “songs from the perspective of serial killers,” which…isn’t exactly groundbreaking material for brutal death (not that I’m asking it to be). The lyrics themselves are well-written and appropriately disturbing, though, and I always appreciate it when bands write about real world killers rather than fantasizing about misogyny and sadism. “Matriarch” features a confession recording from a serial killer in its bridge and “Bind Torture Kill” even uses a quote from Dennis Rader as its opening lyrics, both particularly chilling choices.
A final note on the production: at the beginning of my first listen my gut said the production felt a little light, but that notion was gone by the second track. The instrument tones are on point across the board and the mixing/mastering job from renowned producer Mark Lewis is excellent, with a great deal more balance than you usually get in the brutal death world. The runtime of 30 minutes is spot on, too, and I’d have no complaints whatsoever on that front if it weren’t for the false ending, lengthy silence, and final tag on the last track, which is more confusing than clever.
THE BOTTOM LINE
When it comes to brutal death metal, few do it better than Gutslit, one of the best-kept secrets in all of extreme metal. Carnal continues doing everything that made Amputheatre a killer album but to an even greater degree, with all four members shining as they bring an exciting diversity of sound to a subgenre that is all too often stale. This record will absolutely wreck your shit, and you’ll be smiling the whole damn time.