Sewer Fiends"

by El Chief

Fans of extreme metal can only hope the new year is even half as good as 2017 was for the genre. A new debut from an underappreciated sector of Europe gives us hope that 2018 will rock. Rotheads hail from Count Dracula's native land: Romania. But it's not the Carpathian Mountains that interest these lads. Instead, their sights are set much lower. Into the underworld where any underground band worth its salt resides.

The long-play "Sewer Fiends" celebrates all things low, from rats scurrying, gnawing and fighting their way through dark aqueducts to the band's sound itself. The production sets up the guitars on the low end of the spectrum. The accompanying promo materials celebrates Rotheads classic death metal roots, but to me, the tone is more like proto-black metal (probably because this project's roots descend from experimental doom/noise). Don't get me wrong, the music itself is definitely death. Whereas early black metal always gave a wink-and-nod to pop punk, Rotheads eschew most rhythmic impulses. Instead, nearly every note is set to aggression.

Going forward, I'd like to see Rotheads lift the vocals more out of the mix and ditch the punny lyrics (for example, there's got to be something better than shackling good tracks to such awful track titles like "From the Glowing Goo Rise" and "The Mad Oracle of Seweropolis"). I also want to see the guitarists explore more innovative riffs, such as the high triplets propelling "Psychic Leech" out of the starting blocks. And the nearly eleven-minute-long opus "The Mad Oracle of Seweropolis" starts with a sprawling interplay more akin to Iron Maiden than Obituary. Death metal needs to find such fresh soundscapes if it has any hope of being vibrant in the following decades.