"Reign Supreme"

By Thor

Let me state outright that I LOVE this fucking band.  I’ve always found their death metal brew to be among the most palatable in existence.  Their blend of East Coast style hardcore with blistering blast beats and synchronistic arpeggio madness, along with a dual vocal assault of blistering sociopolitical venom and just plain sick fun is simply bad-fucking-ass.  Dying Fetus makes me go insane.  There are no dorky outfits (which may include gauntlets of various materials, saw blades, spikes, corpse paint, or any Judeo-Christian symbols of Satan), no choreographed stage antics, no guys whose only job is to hit an oil drum with a stick, no goat skulls…well, you get my point.  The heavy-as-fuck brutality and total absence of artifice is both infectious and enduring.

Back in the mid-1990’s these guys were pretty raw.  But with each subsequent release their style got more and more refined.  By the time “Destroy the Opposition” came out in 2000, Dying Fetus had fully realized their musical and conceptual potential.  Every album since then has basically riffed on the same approach, despite the requisite death metal band lineup changes.  This bit of DxFx-history is necessary to understand why their latest album, “Reign Supreme” is a bit of a departure from what has been working so fantastically well.

Guitarist-vocalist John Gallagher, bassist-vocalist Sean Beasley, and drummer Trey Williams comprise the baddest three-piece lurking in the underground and on “Reign Supreme” they do what they do best.  However, here they do it a bit less ambitiously than on albums past.  The songs on “Reign Supreme” feature fewer parts, and that leads to fewer changes.  And dropping slams and grooves on complex changes is an area of songwriting these guys have excelled at no matter the lineup.  The results of this less complex approach are less dynamic and less aggressive, but even so, this recipe still tastes pretty good.

“Reign Supreme” has some pretty lofty highlights.  The opening track, “Invert the Idols” is a perfect encapsulation of the overall approach, it’s simple, heavy, and features some sick drumming.  “From Womb to Waste” is full of killer-yet-conventional riffs; “Dissidence” showcases some tricky slams while “Devout Atrocity” comes out of the gate with a wild opening passage and ends in a vintage Dying Fetus slam.

While “Reign Supreme” is a good album, Dying Fetus has set the bar so high that it’s difficult to not be a little underwhelmed.  The band’s previous album, “Descend into Depravity”, features an opening track, “Your Treachery Will Die with You”, that is the epitome of everything I love about this band.  It’s fucking fast and laced up with slam after slam of violent guttural gut-punch riffage, and it’s inspired.  That song is representative of that entire album and honestly, nothing on “Reign Supreme” comes close.

It’s not as if these guys dropped the ball.  In fact, it’s obvious that the differences between “Reign Supreme” and the last album result from a calculated and purposeful change in the band’s songwriting approach.  On “Reign Supreme”, the song compositions are simpler.  The songs are comprised of simpler riffs, slower uniform tempos, and the general feel of each song is homogenous.  It’s much better produced than “Descend” is and while the change in approach will require some getting used to, “Reign Supreme” is still a definite must-own collection of brutal tunes for Dying Fetus fans.