The term “Brutal” seems to be thrown around with much abandon these days to describe any and all metal that sounds remotely heavy, especially in the South African death metal scene. Almost every new band that pops up has the word in its bio, but thankfully it rings true for Pretoria’s Bile of Man who play death metal that deserves the “brutal” label. 2011 sees the band join the ranks of “Death Metal Bands Who Have Released EPs This Year”, and their seat is well earned.
Dystopian Order: The Age of Detritus begins with the appropriately named “Amidst the Chaos”, a whirlwind of riffs and rapid-fire vocals that beat you over the head before falling into a Cannibal Corpse-like groove. Death metal growls dominate the vocals, but the addition of backup screeches as emphasis break the monotony quite effectively. The fact that these extra vocals are delivered by the rest of the band means that the effect is not lost live. “Tortured Till Death” features a catchy vocal hook that works well with the music behind it and a nice, slow and heavy bridge section that builds anticipation and gives a bit of breathing room before hurtling back into the abyss.
In the midst of the jaw-dropping technicality and blast beat mayhem, melody is not completely forgotten and “Mouth of Madness” opens with a rather eerie clean guitar and bass section reminiscient of prog. masters Opeth, that creates a strong tension before the songs kicks in, ending with another welcome chugfest. The vocals also mix up quite dynamically in this track, the lower notes being broken by screams not unlike those of Jeff Walker of Carcass.
“Feast On the Wicked” blurs a little, mostly because of the overwhelming nature of the music. It is refreshing to hear a band with a very focussed and undeviating style, but it can become too much. My biggest criticism of Bile of Man’s EP is that it is not very accessible, appealing to current fans of brutal death metal, instead of trying to draw neophytes in. Fleshgod Apocalypse‘s symphonic interludes and the melody of bands like God Dethroned do well to punctuate the extreme aspects of the music and emphasise the heaviness of the rest of the music, but maybe that’s the whole point. Brutal death metal is not about making friends, it’s about stomping heads and tearing things apart, which Bile of Man do with impunity.
The monotony is broken by “Thenateros: Ode to Hyatt”, which has the chaotic riffing broken up by some seriously chuggy parts that would make Cannibal Corpse jealous. All of the instruments feel like a carefully coordinated assault against the ears – and not an offending one either. The mix is perfect for the music and the drums and guitars dominate in just the right places. Combine this with possibly the best lyrics on the EP (veering away from the typical death metal blood and gore fare,) and it definitely becomes the highlight of the album.
Repeating the ideas begun in “Mouth of Madness”, the sinister bass intro of “The Return” gives way to a melodic passage that reminded me heavily of “Infinite Misery” off Cannibal Corpse‘s Kill. It is a solid closer, featuring a lot of “evil sounding” notes and a pedestrian pace in comparison to the rest of the album; at least until everything kicks in and the apocalypse is ushered in once more.
Aside from the technical guitars present in the riffs and rhythms on the album, special mention should be made of the solos, which burst out frantically from the rest of the musical maelstrom and are mixed perfectly; rising high out of the mix but never dominating. The solos themselves have a very definite Slayer/Morbid Angel feel where you can’t decide if they’re meticulously planned or purely improvised. Whatever the method, each note feels professionally placed and deliberate.
Dystopian Order is possibly the heaviest death metal album I have heard come out of South Africa in recent years, and is certainly one the best produced. There is an international-level sensibility about the music that could easily put Bile of Man on stage with any number of world-class death metal bands. Their influences, direction and mission are very clear and I can only hope that their next release eclipses this one.
Bile of Man are touring Dystopian Order in the following towns:
Friday 25 March 2011, Factory Nightclub – Centurion, Johannesburg
Saturday 26 March 2011, Wolmer Events Arena, Pretoria
Friday 1 April 2011, ROAR, Observatory, Cape Town