Album Review: CORDYCEPS - Betrayal

Artist: Cordyceps

Album: Betrayal

Genre: Brutal Death Metal

Review by Brady Irwin

With a real Renaissance of sorts happening in the explosive, exploratory and forward-thinking echelons of death metal, the genre is seeing growth and experimentation like never before. Bands are reaching out into cosmic lands, pulling apart and deconstructing themes under some truly mesmerising aesthetics.

But sometimes, sometimes you want something that sure, is impressive and all, but will be a succinct, brutal and punishing slap to the face. Well pucker up, stretch, 'cause here comes the equally wildly technical and gutter-savvy truncheon of Las Vegas' Cordyceps. Emerging straight from a pile of putridity that gets swept aside by civil servants once people are done puking on the neon strip, this album is a hidden gem of visceral carnage.

Up first, the warbling, staticky electronic intro of 'Cursed Are They'. It's spooky and dark enough to kind of feel like the scenes in Call of Duty when your helicopter has just crashed in a campaign and your character is wandering dazed without a gun through enemy territory. Loudspeaker styled quotes towards the end only add to this militaristic effect.

'Parallel Dissonance' pushes that brief repose aside, smashing the alarm clock before you've had a chance to hit the snooze button. Starting immediately with clattering drums, guttural vocals, slamming riffs and pinched harmonics, it's a confusing mix of brutal, surefooted plodding and dizzying, technical turns and twists. Vocals are burped and gurgled but with clarity of expression, like a demonic boar sent to deliver an ominous subterranean message. Running then into Wormed-style wavering blasts, topped with screeching background vocals and twisting passages, the riffs and drums feel like a beaten typewriter, clacking feverishly. A chunky breakdown around the two-minute mark throws things into slam territory but keeps up the pace throughout. Turnaround back to prior screeching and blasting verse. Super evil harmonic tinged breakdown with an octave lower vocals. Breakdown drags slower and slower, like teeth-pulling  in a good way. Dwelling more on this track here than the others, this as musical precedent sets a successful formula for the remainder of the album, a scaffolding of thug-like slam and measured precision.

Fading out in far-off screeches and disturbing dark ambient, an unsettling bridge then plummets into 'The Abyss', which wastes no time oscillating from technical, sniper-precision batteries of blasting sections and chugging breakdowns squishing like mince being waffle-stomped into a sewer drain. Chin-stroking intellectuals and skull-cracking pit fiends will have equal fun and appreciation of the headfirst clash between watertight accuracy, speed and thick, slow fury on display here. A requisite meat-hook breakdown punches the latter third of the track in the rib-cage, sidling out in uneasy fashion with more of those classic horror styled ambient samples. 

'Comatose Subservient' continues along the trail of notes left by Deeds of Flesh, crawling inexorably forward with a guttural lurch then accelerating and twisting as it goes, like a bus flipping airborne over an oil slick. Vocals barking like a bunch of dogs trapped in a coal bunker wrap viciously around a relentless barrage of thrash, bass so distorted it's hardly more than a visceral rumbling within the listeners' internal organs. A punctuating snare cuts through an arpeggio and shriek-soaked din in the latter half of the track, an evil stack of chords and blasts that emanates an almost black metal aesthetic, right before getting in one last chunky, quick and nasty breakdown. That'll do, pig, that'll do.

Title track 'Betrayal' immediately ramps it up even more, with top gear blasting before tracing steps backwards into a fog of chugging plods and slams. Putting the foot on the gas pedal once more, we  cop a sustained high shriek and some octane-infused blasts, then we're thrown back into a concrete barrier with those slamming walls and complex runs in between. Honestly, there's not much on this track that couldn't be said about the prior, but in no way, shape or form is this a detriment. Cordyceps do what they do impressively well, and without need for experimental airs and graces. Ironically, the sincerity of their brand comes across through the music itself without need of look-Mum-no-hands extended showmanship.

In general, within a scene that is teetering towards a top end worshiping at the feet of cavernous death metal godfathers Demilich, the present album takes relief in staying up in the thick air at ground level, opting for a straightforward display of brute force. Building up stamina to this end is the slam-heavy 'Maelstrom of Hypocrisy', a shorter and more restrained track that impales our cochlea with a sharp pointed mix of shrieks and unstoppable chunks of riff goulash. Trilling double-kicks move things along throughout the short track, peeling back to a growling breakdown that'd put a proverbial-eating grin on any Dying Fetus fans' face. 

Breaking into more of a bound and skip now, 'Cesspool of the Vicious' takes a different tack with more fretboard trickery, an impressive contrast between thick power chords and tight tremolo turns, with some sweeps and harmonics sprinkled in like rosemary on a corpse. Charging in at breakneck speed in the final quarter like a linebacker covered in spikes, the final sprint towards this tracks' end pummels past at breakneck speed, relenting only at the finish line with (you guessed it) a triumphant, meaty breakdown.

Jagged single 'Parasitic Degenerate' follows through as its' forebears, a heady concoction of death metal riff trickery. Over the template of straight-up death metal and slam, the talent of the band is still readily apparent, an endlessly unrepentant procession of complex tempo changes and fills on the drums as fretted compatriots dance around the neck at an unforgiving, speedy and off-kilter waltz. I get the distinct impression these dudes could easily perform well in a traditional tech-death band, they just opt not to. 

And we should be more than thankful for it, as it's clear the band have spent considerable time and energy spawning a progeny that is as calculating as it is viscerally terrifying. The consultant specialist mashup of brutal death metal and slam continues as you'd expect in 'Condemning The Path', a track that ups the ante on the tempo aspect with some truly dizzying rollercoasters between sludgy breakdowns, industrial sampling, and scholarly lessons in working with fills, chords and arpeggios with reckless abandon.

No album this dense and undeniably intimidating could be without an absolutely malevolent closer, and 'Black Mass' clacks in with sharp rhythmic walls and Scooby Doo chases through all manner of extreme metal doors. There's an almost schizophrenic feeling of dissociated psychotic stitching together of various ideas here, a patchwork that is intentionally crazed and frenzied closer that is one last fever-pitch assault towards - you could almost place a bet on it by now - a thudding, plodding monster of a breakdown that fades out slowly. 

And that's it. No extended segues into fretless bass, no synth-drenched corridors to dance around the point for ten minutes, no flirtatious experimentation with atmospheric black metal, no extended post-rock preponderances. Short, swift, to the point with impressive musicianship, a horrifyingly organic tone and truly basement-dwelling intent, it'd be a Betrayal for any serious fan of traditional and technical death metal to pass this hog by in the increasingly crowded sty next to the slam filth-pit.

Betrayal is out now via Unique Leader Records.

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