Artist: Embryonic Devourment
Album Title: Heresy Of The Highest Order
Label: Unique Leader Records
Date of Release: 25 February 2022
‘Heresy Of The Highest Order’ is the very first exposure I’ve had to Embryonic Devourment, despite it being the fourth full-length of the Californian’s career to date. It’s also the first album to be released on the Unique Leader Records label, some eight years after their last release, 2014’s ‘Reptilian Agenda’. Currently a trio, the band is comprised of guitarist Donnie Small, drummer Luke Boutiette, and bassist/vocalist Austin Spence.
Over the course of around 38 minutes, spread across eight individual compositions, Embryonic Devourment unleash a torrent of extreme metal that I firmly believe has a very niche market. I have listened several times to ‘Heresy Of The Highest Order’ and I’m still of the opinion that I do not fit their demographic. I have tried, I really have. But the music here is beyond my grasp.
At the heart of things, Embryonic Devourment are a technical, maybe progressive, death metal band. The abilities of the three musicians are beyond questioning; you simply cannot produce this kind of music without an incredible level of skill, skill that is out of the reach of many of us, myself included. However, as technically adept as they are, the trio have forgotten one important factor as far as I’m concerned: musicality. Last year, I was bowled over by bands that deservedly went under the banner of ‘avant-garde’ or ‘experimental’ music. And in each case, regardless of the variety, bonkers ideas, and boundary pushing, one thing united them all: musicality. At certain points, the bands in question understood that the listener required more than just fretboard gymnastics, or time-bending rhythms, or intriguing instrumental juxtapositions. So we were given a melody, or a groove, or an atmosphere to keep us interested and engaged. Not so here.
Embryonic Devourment deserve significant kudos for their endeavours because the final product is indeed impressive and very challenging, certainly for me. But the only thing I can give them is cold, clinical kudos for their endeavours. And this is, ironically, very apt because the music itself offers something quite cold and detached also. I don’t feel any warmth or connection to the music on ‘Heresy Of The Highest Order’ and that’s because the music itself contains none of this warmth either.
From the outset of opening track ‘Kathy O’Brian’, I feared that this wouldn’t be music that I’d overly enjoy. But with an open mind, I persevered, ever hopeful that I could be proven wrong. Sadly, on this occasion, my first thoughts were bang on. An avalanche of dissonance assaults every sense almost immediately. Of course, I like a touch of melody to my extreme metal, but instead, if I’m offered groove, or intriguing atmosphere, I can usually get on board. Almost certainly deliberately, Embryonic Devourment offer nothing of the sort. The opening track is built on dissonance, discomfort, a lack of apparent structure, and brutality. The precision of the playing is impressive, but it’s hard to enjoy when everything is charging ahead at 100 miles per hour without apparent regard for cohesion. Impressive it may be, but as far as I’m concerned, it isn’t enjoyable.
And so the die is cast, meaning that if the opening track isn’t your particular cup of tea, you’ll be hard-pressed to like much of the ensuing seven tracks either. That said, if I try extremely hard, can pick out a few things that I do like. For example, the title track boasts a tiny bit more melody than its predecessor, as well as a more discernible structure. But it’s all relative of course and were it to feature on another techdeath record, I’d probably not even give it the time of day.
The best bits, somewhat tellingly, are the interludes that are tacked on to the end of various tracks, or the beginning of others. They feature dark atmospheres and spoken-word parts that talk of aliens and demons. However, being the genuinely positive chap that I am, I’d also mention ‘Murder Of The Ancients’ because the lead guitar solos are very cool indeed, displaying the kind of virtuoso talent that is jaw-dropping. To be honest, were the compositions stronger, I’d be waxing lyrical about the talents of each musician several times over.
And then there’s ‘Manipulation Of The Senses’ which, unless I’m groping hopelessly for a positive when none exist, demonstrates a bit more groove than is present elsewhere. But that’s honestly about it as far as I’m concerned.
I do not doubt for one second that there is a market for this kind of music. It is dextrous, and technically adept, shunning anything even remotely deemed to be slightly less than extreme. For that, they will definitely garner a fanbase of like-minded souls. And indeed, I’m not for one second suggesting that the music on this album is bad or of a poor standard, because it isn’t. If fact, the opposite is probably true depending on your subjective opinion. It’s just that it is fundamentally at odds with all that I hold dear. As a result, I tip my cap to Embryonic Devourment and their latest creation, ‘Heresy Of The Highest Order’. But will I ever listen to it again now that my review is complete? The answer is ‘no’, sadly not. Oh, and I also hate the cover artwork – just for the record.
The Score of Much Metal: 65%
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