Album Review: Pharmacist – “Carnal Pollution” 8/10 (Death Grind)

Written by Kep

PharmacistCarnal Pollution
Death metal/goregrind from Japan
Releasing October 1 via Black Hole Productions

Pharmacist is really becoming quite the phenomenon, and for good reason. There aren’t too many bands out there right now that do what they do—horrific grinding death that’s both gruesome and clinical—at the level they’re doing it. They stormed onto the metal scene just a short year and a half ago, but they’ve already released an amount of material that would take some bands a decade: an EP, a debut LP, and six (six!!!!) splits. That full-length, Medical Renditions of Grinding Decomposition, might be the closest anyone has come to an album that captures both the spirit and musical excellence of CarcassSymphonies of Sickness. Yeah, it’s good.

But we’re not here to talk about Medical Renditions, we’re here to talk about Carnal Pollution, their newest EP. If this is your entry point to the Pharmacist experience, then welcome to the bile-drenched party. It’s a bit sickening here, but you’re not going to want to leave.

This offering is a no-room-to-breathe four tracks over 20 minutes, and it’s typical Pharmacist fare in that it approaches the gore from a medical/forensics point of view, rather than a rape-and-murder slant, which I for one think deserves an extra tip of the hat. Their sound has changed a bit vis a vis production style since their earliest releases; it’s less murky now, and there’s a bigger emphasis on precision and clarity. It’s a colder, more clinical sound: the guitars are sharp and vicious as scalpel blades and the drums are bright and dry, punchy as hell. This style of production works extremely well for their surgically precise musicianship, harsh and biting and unflinchingly brutal. It’s a ruthless listening experience from the very first second of opener “Disintegration”, the tightly coiling riff ripping like a bone saw through dead tissue.

Listening to Carnal Pollution is a beatdown of an experience to say the least, with each track really standing strong on its own. I often find that it’s easy for goregrind to wear me down and that the tracks bleed together, but I’ve never run into that issue with Pharmacist because they keep their compositions and riffcraft varied and interesting despite consistently high velocity and intensity. Guitarist/bassist/vocalist Pharmacist is relentlessly technical and absolutely slays some of the coolest riffs to ever be labeled as goregrind—my favorite might be the one that starts at :24 in the title track, with its speedy chugs alternating with mad spinning trills—but he also crunches through surprising sections that are heavily inspired by Swedish OSDM. His guttural, hoarse vocals bring a revolting intensity to match; you’d swear they’re tearing out of a decomposing larynx. Not to be outdone, drummer Therapeutist is every bit as technical and brings far more to the table than your typical grind skinsman. Don’t get me wrong, he blasts with the best of them, and it’s far more clean and precise than most, but there’s so much enjoyable nuance to the way he plays with rhythm, like in the main riff of standout track “Oral Consuming” with syncopated snare pops and stabilizing cymbal/bass work. It’s the kind of ear-catching je ne sais quoi that sends you looking for the Repeat Track button on whatever device you’re using to listen.

This is probably the riffiest, most death-y release out of the Japanese duo yet. They’ve always balanced the elements of death metal and goregrind relatively evenly, but Carnal Pollution takes the bloody prize. So many spots are built for you to utterly wreck your neck. About 20 seconds into third track “Obsequial Orchestration” there’s a terrific chunky groove that I keep coming back to because it’s so fun to headbang to in an almost Entombed-esque death ‘n’ roll sort of way. Then, to add to the death metal flavor, they bring in the outstanding Andrew Lee of Bay Area solo project Ripped to Shreds to lay down a few mind-blowing solos on “Disintegration” and “Obsequial Orchestration” (their second collaboration, as he featured on their tracks in this year’s Feeling Young split with Fluids). I’m not going to waste words trying in vain to describe what he does on these tracks; just know that Ripped to Shreds (Luan) contained my favorite guitar solo of 2020, and his work on Carnal Pollution is every bit as impressive. 

Suffice it to say I’m stoked to see Pharmacist continuing to roll out grisliness of the highest quality. Carnal Pollution is an excellent EP, and hopefully it’s just a taste of what their next full-length will be. Come join me in the pool of formaldehyde-soaked limbs!

Favorite track: Oral Consuming

Score: 8/10

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