REVIEW: CUT UP – “Wherever They May Rot”
Though Cut Up are a relatively new band to the scene, having only formed in 2014, none of the quartet could be described as anything other than a veteran in the Swedish death metal scene. With frontman Erik Rundqvist (bass, vocals), guitarist Anders Bertilsson and drummer Tobias “Tobben” Gustafsson all having served time in legendary Swedish outfit Vomitory, and Gustafsson lending his sticks to Amon Amarth’s newest opus, ‘Jomsviking’, Cut Up know what they are doing. “Wherever They May Rot” is the Swedes’ second offering, following their Metal Blade Records debut “Forensic Nightmares,” released in 2015.
Straight off the bat, everything about “Wherever They May Rot” is an improvement on “Forensic Nightmares.” Not that the debut was bad, as such, but in spite of a few killer moments of death metal, everything from the awful artwork to the generic songwriting left “Forensic Nightmares” as a disappointing album from a group of talented musicians. First, second, third and fortieth impressions of “Wherever They May Rot” prove things have gotten better, tighter, and heavier – even the artwork is leagues better than they debut, comparing the two is akin to comparing a Mark Riddick album cover to a high-school student’s notebook doodlings. That said, however, I would be surprised to see anyone claim this as one of 2017’s finest death metal offerings – good as it is, it is not perfect. The biggest problem “Wherever They May Rot” faces is a lack of memorability. The great moments– and by my beard, there are more than a few great moments– become buried and lost in a sea of blasting, down-tuned riffing and a general aura of sameness.
Strength of Cut Up’s members is their ability to spit in the face of melody, opting for a far more grinding, unrelenting sound, and to still make it enticing. Although the open six minutes or so of the album fade into a wall of indecipherable brutality, “Behead The Dead” features a groovier, heavier passage around the halfway point that ends up leading to one of best tracks of the album by far, “Wherever They May Rot’s” title track. Though not even remotely doomy by anyone’s standards, “Wherever They May Rot” has a slower pace than we’ve experienced thus far in it’s namesake, lead by infectious riffs and catchy vocal-lines.
This trend continues onto “Vermin Funeral,” which is equally groove-focused and one of “Wherever They May Rot’s” finer moments. “Into The Aftermath” further proves that Cut Up are at their strongest when they swap the formless brutality for a more refined, slightly groovier, and wholly more classic sound. The tracks mentioned thus far are slower than the bulk of the album (though just barely), but by taking their foot from the floor Cut Up end up crafting some pretty damn good songs, rather than tiring, generic blast-fests. Album closer, the poorly titled “Raped by the Blade” features a really sinister, unsettling minute-long intro that is actually the best bit of the track. Sadly, when the intro ends, “Raped by the Blade” reverts mainly to speed and brutality, sacrificing the incredible atmosphere the intro created.
Though the far superior of the group’s two offerings and a step in the right direction,”Wherever They May Rot” still feels like a tribute to Vomitory, and weak compared to what we know these musicians are capable of. Sure, it ticks all the boxes – the production is meaty, the vocals are strong, the rhythms tight and the guitar-work are impressive. And while I am a strong believer that an album doesn’t need to be groundbreaking to be excellent, this feels like death metal by numbers. Cut Up are on the right path, and “Wherever They May Rot” has more than it’s fair share of strong, bludgeoning moments, but a bit more creativity would go a long, long way in proving the band is more than a poor man’s Vomitory.