When last we checked in with New York-based Carcinogen, they were building up to the release of their debut EP, Unholy Aggression. That was last October, and now they’ve released a follow-up EP with four new songs called Human Atrophy. For the cover art, they’ve turned once again to that Indonesian underground artist who calls herself Oikwasfuk (of Nothing Sacred Artwerks). Nice to see that she hasn’t toned down the grisliness.
Carcinogen haven’t toned anything down either (thank goodness). When we wrote about the band in October (here), we praised their “stripped-down, fuzzed-out, palm-muted, drop-tuned, guttural-voiced, percussive approach” to old-school, thrash-paced death metal. On the new EP, Carcinogen continue to perfect their daunting assault on the senses, enhancing the technicality of their playing and jazzing up the pyrotechnics with even more pronounced tempo dynamics.
What Carcinogen haven’t done is turn down the temperature in their blast furnace. Pressing play on this EP is like sticking your unprotected head into that furnace. You’ll come out at the end with all your hair burned off and your face converted into a charred ruin — but your crispy, senseless head will still be bangin’. (more after the jump, including a stream of the whole EP . . .)
With the exception of a few demonic shrieks tossed in here and there, Johnny Gierak gives the listener a steady diet of cavernous roars and staccato barking that pays homage to NYDM animals like Ross Dolan and John McEntee. The vocals shroud everything in an aura of ghoulish evil — which is as it should be.
Dave Lambert and Charlie Geiser wield their guitars like madmen, hammering away with convulsive thrash-style riffs, shifting rhythms at will, injecting brief bursts of tremolo sawing, and even engaging in a flight of near-prog-metal, dual-guitar soloing (in the EP’s third track, “Neurotoxin”). And speaking of soloing, when they really let fly, the guitars shriek like banshees or burn like superheated blowtorches.
One extra-nice touch on this EP are Rob Yahn‘s bass lines. For one thing, you can hear what he’s doing much of the time, and what he’s doing is nimbly bounding all over the place — but without sacrificing a hulking, monstrous tone. He’s in good company with drummer Mike Manzo, who delivers an inventive attack that’s fun to focus your ears on. The drums have a natural tone to them — and the tones and rhythms are constantly varying.
I also really enjoy the production on this EP. I don’t know enough about the intricacies of recording, mixing, and mastering to explain how this has been done, but the sound achieves a satisfying middle ground between too-sharp clarity and too-muddy sludginess, and at least to my ears, it’s a step up from the first EP. (The EP was recorded at Subterranean Studios in Edison, NJ by John Forrestal; I’m not positive about who handled the mixing.)
All three of the original songs on the EP are great, and on the fourth the band do a very nice job covering (quite faithfully) one of my favorite Slayer tracks, “Postmortem”. I much prefer Gierak’s bestial vocals to the original, and you still get all the neck-snapping voltage of that distinctly Slayer-esque riffage. Having said that, the three, more technical, original tracks are the stars of this EP. This band remains one you should keep your eyes on: This is death/thrash done right.
Carcinogen are selling both of their EPs for $5 a piece, plus assorted other merch at this location. You can get more info about the band via their pages at Facebook and MySpace. Now, here’s a Soundcloud player that should allow you to stream all four of the songs on Human Atrophy: