(Grant Skelton presents his review of the new album by Broken Flesh — along with our premiere of a full-album stream.)
Broken Flesh formed in 2004 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. They released their first album Forever In Flames in 2009 on black metal label Sullen Records (now defunct). On Forever In Flames, the band performed as a three-piece with Kevin Tubby handling guitar and vocals, additional guitar by Steve Maxwell, and Brandon Lopez on drums. Forging a strong DIY ethic, Broken Flesh followed up that album with an independent EP called Stripped, Stabbed and Crucified in 2012. The EP was the band’s only release to feature Ricky Puckett on vocals. Jacob Mathes took over as the band’s bassist and backup vocalist.
Over the next year, the band adjusted their lineup, honing their sound and perfecting their craft. While guitarist Kevin Tubby and drummer Brandon Lopez remained constant, Jacob took over lead vocals, with Joshua Mathes stepping in on bass. The musical seeds they began to sew on Stripped, Stabbed and Crucified manifested in 2013. That year, the band birthed Warbound. Their evolution was complete. In the span of only one year, Broken Flesh’s songwriting metamorphosed into a repulsive death metal scourge devoid of mercy… a wanton and sadistic lash with which to flagellate their listeners and fans.
Warbound saw Broken Flesh ascend from sepulchral obscurity. After its release, they played a hometown show with Rockstar Energy’s Mayhem Festival and Mexico’s Exodo Fest. In 2014, the band gave live audiences the pleasure of hearing new material written after Warbound. Broken Flesh attracted the attention of Luxor Records, and Luxor re-released Warbound in January. The new album was produced by Nick Morris of As They Sleep (who also have new material in the pipeline). The track “Hell” features a guest solo from Morris.
Now, No Clean Singing is proud to offer an exclusive stream of Broken Flesh’s new self-titled album in advance of its September 4 release date.
This album’s artwork made me uncomfortable, as any death metal artwork worth its salt had better do. The art is doubtless a visualization of the album’s harrowing first track, “Valley Of Mass Crucifixion.” What I find most thought-provoking about this art isn’t what it depicts. It’s what it doesn’t depict. The crucified figures have no visible features, no human facial characteristics that would allow us to personalize them. Perhaps this is how those responsible for said crucifixion viewed them — dehumanized. Social sciences are replete with literature and studies regarding the relationship between dehumanization and violence. The more we can emotionally distance ourselves from those unlike us, the more we perpetuate the fear of the “other.” When you believe someone is inferior to you, it is much easier to inflict violence upon them. No empathy, therefore no clemency.
We have Jon Zig to thank for this unsettling grotesquery. Zig’s artwork has adorned albums by the likes of Suffocation, The Black Dahlia Murder, Devourment, Pathology, Deeds Of Flesh, and Defeated Sanity.
Zig’s art shows us another important fact about the kind of music you’re about to hear. Metal is synonymous with violence, so much so that the music itself is often blamed for real atrocities. Notwithstanding, metal bands were not content enough with the violence in their lyrics. So, to glut themselves of their prosaic bloodlust, they created an entire metal genre based on making violent music — death metal. It would be a misguided generalization to say that all metal bands, even all death metal bands, feature violent lyrical content. But, as is the case with Broken Flesh, it is the music itself that is a violent experience.
Violence is ugly, offensive, and disturbing. But, it is a fact of reality. When we see real violence, we may feel revulsed, sickened, or terrified. Art that depicts violence may make us feel similar emotions. If art is honest, then it will deal with real events honestly. Art should be something without any hint of pretense. It should be allowed to depict reality in all its abhorrent, obscene, blood-drenched glory. And Broken Flesh’s self-titled album does exactly that. Music like this is violence manifested for auditory consumption.
Drummers don’t get enough credit. And the man behind Broken Flesh’s kit is Brandon Lopez. He is the center around which the rest of this pandaemonium orbits. This is an album I would listen to just to hear the drumming. Lopez’s blast beats are like barbarous volleys of field artillery. His kit receives an unrepentant flogging. Another drumming highlight is that this album contains more tempo shifts than Warbound. Broken Flesh can certainly employ speed, but this album sees them toying with mid-to-slow tempos. As a fan of old school death metal, that was very appealing to me. While I’m not intending for this to be a track-by-track review,“Ignominy” is the best example of one of the album’s “slower” songs. Sections of songs like “Buried Alive” and “Cries Of The Dead” also illustrate this.
This album boasts many more solos than its predecessor. Perhaps I can chalk this up to personal preference, but solos always enhance my enjoyment of an album. Kevin Tubby’s mutilating riffs are sharp enough to split flesh from bone. He creates sickening slams that are severe enough to abrade even the thickest skin.
Anyone who has read my reviews knows that I’m prone to call attention to the bass. As a whole, the bass is something that casual listeners seem to ignore entirely. Fortunately, if you’re reading this blog, you likely aren’t a casual listener. Which is convenient, because quality bass isn’t something you hear, as much as feel. Joshua Mathes’ low end is in this category. It was one of the first things I noticed about Warbound. Joshua’s bass on this album is an indomitable vermin that leaves nothing alive. It wraps itself around the percussion, garroting the listener with each quaking strum.
And while we’re on the topic of strangulation, let’s talk about the throat of Broken Flesh. Jacob Mathes’ vocals are ulceratively guttural. I am indeed aware that “ulceratively” is not a word; I have coined the adverb to do justice to the vocal performance on this album. The sound is not unlike a person using his own intestinal tract to siphon gasoline. Jacob’s vocals, as with any death metal vocals, are better thought of as an additional instrument that adds another layer to the music. If you think of the music as a casket, the vocals are the dirt thrown on top of you as you are lowered into the wormy earth.
Simply because we enjoy violent music does not make us violent people. To the contrary, perhaps we are not violent people because we listen to violent music. Violence is an inescapable part of life. In some parts of the world, what you see in this album art is likely a reality. If not presently, then it can be found in history. Though I cannot demonstrate it empirically, I am of the opinion that our violent metal music gives us a transparency about violence that other genres of (modern) music will not touch. Even regarding violent lyrics, we have to remember to distinguish between lyrical perspectives. Descriptive lyrics tell us what is happening, even if they are detailing deplorable and malevolent acts from the perspective of the one committing them. This is wholly different from a prescriptive perspective that tells us what to do, suggests we adopt a particular belief, or recommends that we take a certain action.
Lyrically, Broken Flesh describe acts of violence with vivid and graphic detail. This fact alone does not set them apart from other death metal bands, but it does make my point. Bands like Broken Flesh are artists. As artists, they are aware of the human capacity for violence. That violence may be physical, psychological, emotional, or even spiritual. Violent art depicts aspects of reality that, although we might like to, we cannot ignore. A deeper understanding of the profundity of death simultaneously gives one a deeper understanding of the real meaning and purpose of one’s own life.
In conclusion, eat, drink, and listen to death metal. Particularly Broken Flesh.
Broken Flesh’s self-titled album will be released next Friday, September 4, on Luxor Records. Thanks to Nick Morris for hooking NCS up with the album. Stream it in its entirety right here.
Connect with the band on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brokenflesh