(DGR delivers this big review of the new album by Germany’s Profanity.)
If one were to play the numbers game with German three-piece death metal band Profanity and their album releases, one could say that it has been quite some time since the group’s last full-length album — and basically have it qualify as one of the understatements of the year.
The band, having sprung back into life after a decade-plus of on/off activity since their last release, put out an EP in late 2014 known as Hatred Hell Within, an EP that consisted of three songs but could’ve easily passed as an album, given the denseness of the material contained within.
Profanity like writing big brutal death metal songs. Not big in terms of bombast, but in terms of how much they can pack within the six-plus minutes many of their songs tend to take. This mentality has continued onward with the group’s newest release, The Art Of Sickness, coming in a little under three years since that Hatred Hell Within EP.
Containing a deceptive six songs within its tracklist, The Art Of Sickness leaves its listeners looking like one of those idiot TV show hosts right after ordering a gigantic meal, as the realization finally hits them that there is actually a lot on that plate, despite the overwhelming confidence with which they approached it and the initially deceptive appearance.
If Profanity set out to do just one thing with The Art Of Sickness, it was to take that big song idea and really run with it, because those six songs travel places, taking a veritable bounty of twists and turns, and providing a handful of “who would’ve seen that coming?” moments along the way. By the end, you feel like you’ve covered the span of the globe in a little under forty minutes… all while someone has been hitting you over the head with a sledgehammer.
The Art Of Sickness is self-explanatory from moment one. It starts with a quick flurry of notes and then it’s off to the death metal races. It makes no airs about what sort of disc it is. Actually, it breaks out a specific trope that is always amusing to watch when it comes into play. In Profanity’s case, it’s unintentional, since all of their songs tend to be this way, but the first song on The Art Of Sickness plays into the “place massive song up-front, see if listeners get past it” trope. Not only that, but they called the song “The Great Obstacle” — in one of the more apt moments of song-naming out there.
“The Great Obstacle” is a huge song and travels so much ground in between its start/stop flurry of blasts and chugging death metal that in some ways it makes Profanity seem like mad scientists, just Frankenstein-ing different parts together to see how many limbs, how many parts, how many differing pieces can all be stitched onto one heavily overloaded core of thumping guitar and quick note flurries.
There’s a melodic passage within it, multiple passes of technically impressive fret-work, with the bass guitar — actually a theme with the whole disc — constantly and noticeably thudding in and out of the song with different parts hovering above the guitars, like someone throwing dead bodies into an empty room, and different bellowed vocal passages that seem just as content to follow the drumwork as they do belching out a mass of undulating activity underneath it.
All of that is just song one: Then the band do it five more times.
Now you can see why just doubling an EP’s short track list can give a band like Profanity a “full album’s worth” of material, and why an album list of only six songs is deceptively short. They make humongous tracks and pack them like its their last chance to be near recording equipment ever. Given the amount of time that intervened prior to Profanity’s current reawakening, you can tell the band are pent up.
“Who Leaves Stays” — the song following “The Great Obstacle” — presents one of the first times where Profanity rank high on the “huh, who saw that coming?” meter, and it’s one of the best moments on the album, because it works so well in the context of the song surrounding it. The track is an over-seven-minute leviathan in its own right, but after the song initially feels like a more percussive-based-riff version of “The Great Obstacle”, the group suddenly reveal their hidden weapon — which is that Profanity seem to have gained a talent for melodic leads since Hatred Hell Within.
On top of the sort of overwhelming tide of heaviness with which the band roll over their listeners, now they have multiple earworm passages spread throughout the disc. So you get the experience of humming along to a brutal death album — something that doesn’t happen often because the busszaw and hammer assault is usually moving so quickly and violently that you don’t get time to latch on to anything before your grip is loosened and you’re tossed into the whirlwind.
“Who Leaves Stays” surprises by breaking out a choir sting that leads into an impressive bit of musicianship that is equal parts catchy and ear-bending. In an already big song, breaking out the symphonics and spilling into a hooky bit of note-work makes an immediate impression, one that helps “Who Leaves Stays” stick out from the rest of the disc, as well as keeping Profanity from becoming just another humongous slab of death metal beef.
“Mouth Of Nepotism” is one of the songs on The Art Of Sickness that I would actually hazard to deem “fun” in its opening minutes. There’s something about hearing that bass guitar doing everything to hang with the guitar work, where the songwriting philosophy seems to be “WE LEAVE NOTHING BEHIND” and you just have this massive wall of notes tumble onto you, which the band then accelerates into the relentless beatings afterwords. Like many Profanity songs, it also has a real fun and brief segment where the band stop and hang on to some very bizarre guitar noise.
“Mouth Of Nepotism”, though, like its brethren throughout the disc, can’t be strictly defined by just its opening as there are a multitude of interstitials throughout, including one really massive groove section that pops up about halfway through the song before the band yank the listener out of the proverbial eye of the storm and back into the hurricane, because it’s fun watching listeners get hit by the detritus blowing around. They even break out some huge booming war drums for the closing bits of the song, which hits ye olde’ soft spot for bombast in death metal like few others, before they immediately do away with it — because that’s also a constant theme in Profanity‘s work.
Despite the detours that show us just how much Profanity love to wander off the beaten path, the core of the brutal death metal band that is Profanity remains solid. The Art Of Sickness is almost unrelenting in that aspect. There aren’t any moments of empty air on The Art Of Sickness, there is always some machine being spun up somewhere, some noisemaker of a riff being pile-driven out, it’s a landslide of differing instruments all being used as blunt weapons to crack skulls open.
The song titles on The Art Of Sickness are all either two or three words and very simply stated; Profanity don’t go for the fathomless lyrical depth of many faux-losophers turned death metal vocalists. I remain convinced that there were times throughout The Art Of Sickness when the lyrical process basically boiled down to, “You know what would go really good here? Just a fuckin’ massive grunt”, and that’s what happened. Just humongous low, guttural, animal growls over a whirring machine of noise and a drum kit that somehow managed to keep its form after six tracks of battering.
The last two tracks on The Art Of Sickness really send home the message that Profanity are a death metal band, and the divergences are a fun way to break up all the constant hammering, but they’re more than content to just keep hammering until a small hole in the ground resembles an extinction-level-event impact crater.
If it’s not clear already, The Art Of Sickness is a gigantic feast of death metal noise, one that takes a few journeys before it really starts to sink in. The initial “holy shit there’s a lot here” impression takes a while to wear off, but there’s a lot of joy to be found in seeing where Profanity travel within each song. With “only” six tracks, you still cover so much mileage with the band that your shoes will have the soles falling off by track three.
Profanity enjoy writing massive songs, and The Art Of Sickness is a massive album because of that. Nothing was left unused on the writing table (or so it seems), with the constantly differing parts that seem to spin up out of nowhere, darting in and out of the songs, all slicing through a wall of brutal death metal that seems to be constantly bearing down upon the listener. It’s a heavy disc in more ways than one, so packed with music, and yet somehow managing to avoid the brutal death metal segments becoming a constant melange. Each part remains just as exciting as the next divergence into a wall of notes or some fun sound experiment that the band want to break out. It’s still red meat for a death metal crowd, but one that has a huge taste for adventure. Even though we’re prone to having a lot of excellent music fly under the radar by the sheer volume that seems to hit us — sheer volume being something Profanity deal in — don’t let The Art Of Sickness be one of them.
The Art of Sickness includes guest appearances by Terrance Hobbs (Suffocation), Adrie Kloosterwaard (Sinister), Ricky Myers (Disgorge, Suffocation), Christian Münzner (Alkaloid, ex-Obscura), as well as the band’s ex-bassist Martl Bauer. The artwork was done by Pär Olofsson.
The album will be released on April 21 by Apostasy Records.