(In this post TheMadIsraeli reviews the new album by Sweden’s Cut Up.)
As someone who is a complete fucking nerd who enjoys analyzing nuances, subtleties, patterns, and periods within art, or the examples of all those contained within a particular artist’s body of work, I find few things more fascinating within the realms of music than the phenomenon of the extreme metal sophomore album. Mostly I’m impressed by its power to either make or break bands. If you release a killer debut and then a shitty sophomore album, or just one that doesn’t capitalize on the steam of the debut, you can absolutely tank your traction and name right then and there and never recover. Some bands can release a terrible debut and get away with it, but a band who start well take a big risk if they release a sophomore album that is anything less than excellent.
This subject may be worth a digression into a deeper conversation about what a sophomore album should accomplish, and maybe I’ll do an article on that alone someday, but for now the context is Cut Up.
In my not so humble opinion, Cut Up’s Forensic Nightmares is one of the best death metal albums ever released in the 2010s. In fact, I’d argue it’s a top 10 of the decade so far. The album was so good that Wherever They May Rot is in a pretty unfortunate spot. The album is great. It’ll probably shit all over anything that tries to compete with it in its sphere for the rest of the year, unless somebody surprises us by doing their Autopsy/Vomitory/Dismemberment-dialed-to-11 approach better. However, although Wherever They May Rot is an excellent death metal album, as a Cut Up album it under-cuts (up) the momentum they built with Forensic Nightmares.
I wholeheartedly believe that unless a band is convinced that an absolute stylistic shift is going to knock it out of the park, the sophomore extreme metal record should ALWAYS be the debut ver. 1.5. You need to take that foundation and push it, expand it just a bit further before you can really branch out and try new things. Very few bands can skip this step and pull it off. Wherever They May Rot is a brutal, fast-as-fuck, vicious, grimy death metal record bathing in toxic putridity, every bit as much as Forensic Nightmares (and maybe more so); it hasn’t lost the nuance or the lyrical riffing and song structure of its predecessor. In some ways it reflects an evolution compared to the debut, but instead of being debut ver. 1.5 it’s more like debut ver 1.2.
There isn’t enough give with the take in terms of the way Cut Up have redistributed their sound this time around. Songs like “Vermin Funeral”, “Behead The Dead”, or “Psychosurgery” are profound reminders of WHY you should be listening to these guys and buying their shit. The dynamics are there, and the riffs feel poignant, significant, and written with purpose. In addition, songs like “Cranium Crusher” or the opener “From Ear To Ear” are the sort of blistering adrenaline rush I need when it’s needed, and THEY ARE killer, sonic flesh-filleting pieces of butchery.
For me, however, Wherever They May Rot unfortunately finds the majority of its run time just being brutal and bombastic for the sake of it. I’m not saying the music isn’t good — what Cut Up do is a step above most of the competition — but as a band whose debut felt like old school death metal for those who demand more out of their death metal, this falls a bit short of that standard. I just think Cut Up could’ve turned the dial up a bit more and could’ve pushed the song-writing into more dynamic territory.
As critical of this album as I may seem, I do still think it’s a must-have. It’s a masterclass in how to write great, brutal, adrenaline-spiking death metal, and as a sophomore album it certainly doesn’t tank Cut Up’s momentum, but it does slow it down enough that I’m less excited for an album number three than I would have hoped. On the other hand, I’m a pretentious music critic who’s up his own ass and thinks his opinion on music is objectively superior to everybody else’s, and so these reactions should be taken with a grain of salt. I’ll be curious to see the reactions of others.
Wherever They May Rot was released by Metal Blade on March 24th.
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