Afterbirth - The Time Traveler's Dilemma

Kev Rowland, Afterbirth - The Time Traveler's Dilemma

New York-based death metal behemoths Afterbirth, featuring within its ranks members of Helmet, Artificial Brain, and Buckshot Facelift, have finally released their debut full-length album, just a few years after they started playing their brand of brutal death metal. They came together in the summer of 1993, and the following year released the cult status ‘Psychopathic Embryotomy’ studio demo, after which they promptly broke up! But, after a break of nearly twenty years the band got back together and felt that there was still work to complete, and soon found themselves recording not only their heaviest material to date, but also music that was bringing in a great many different elements from other genres.  

What struck me from the very first note to the very last, is that on the surface of it this is an incredibly heavy album that takes no prisoners. It is riff-hungry, with bass and drums combining like a freight train, while singer Wil Smith provides otherworldly growls from beyond known dimensions of time and space. But, this album is way, way more than “just” that. If ever an album was to be held up to display the use of dynamics, then this is that record. Drummer Keith Harris is a revelation, as not only can he belt his skins into next week, but there are also times when a gentle tap on the cymbals is all that is needed, and it is that understanding of his impact, both in terms of what he plays and what he doesn’t, in incredible. Bassist David Case is another musician with an innate understanding of his impact on the overall sound: take for example the song “Drills and Needles”. On first hearing, it is a maelstrom of sound, but listen carefully and one can hear the bass line being picked much higher in the scale than one might imagine, and it is this counterpoint that makes this such a standout.

They even put in a couple of dreamy psyche style instrumentals where Cody Drasser shows that he can do far more than shred, and these in turn make the death metal monsters that follow even more impressive. This is light and shade, control and power, dynamics to the max, and results in an album that must be one of the most important and impressive ever released in the brutal death metal genre.

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