REVIEW: DECREPIT BIRTH – “Axis Mundi”
Santa Cruz based technical death metallers Decrepit Birth are back with their fourth studio record, ‘Axis Mundi’, which is actually a symbol that has transcended cultures all over the world. It literally means, the axis of the world. It is the symbolic convergence of all four compass directions in a single point where communication from the lower realm can reach the higher realm and where blessings from the higher realm can come down to be dispersed. The actual symbol is different from culture to culture, but they are generally a natural object like a mountain or plants (think Yggdrasil, the tree of life); the human figure, like DaVinci’s Vitruvian Man or in concepts like chakras; or in man made objects like a tower or home.
Right out of the gate, the concept alone had me hooked. Decrepit Birth have always seemed to exist at a higher level than a lot of the bands out there now. The music is complex, intricate without sacrificing any brutality and the album concepts are well thought out while remaining original. ‘Axis Mundi’ starts off with a cool, spacey sounding intro before dropping into a chunky riff. The guitar tone is nice and crisp, accented perfectly with the rolling clang of the bass. Bill Robinson’s vocals come in low and guttural, yet still articulate and dynamic. With Samus on drums, there really is no going wrong either.
Technical death metal has come a long way in the last decade or so. There are so many incredible variations on the genre that allow bands to have wildly different sounds but still fall into this category. Lately things have taken the direction of only playing as fast and crazy as you can, taking away some of the soul in tech death. While the music is inherently cold and technical, the final product is something with more character than just a robotic machine. Bands like Decrepit Birth are great examples of this. The ebb and flow of the music is captivating and really carries you through the record.
Personally, I love when bands have a heavy bass presence as it really rounds out the sound and fills things out. Sean Martinez does an incredible job finding a space in the mix and makes the most of it. The bass has a fat, chunky tone that really lends itself to the overall weight of the track. On tracks like “Hieroglyphic” Martinez jumps to the front of the mix with a bad-ass bass solo. Quality bassists seem to go largely unappreciated around the metal community, so I like to make a point of highlighting them when I can.
The first half of the album is heavy, ethereal, and wicked fast at times. The real fun for me was found in the second half of the record. “Embryogenesis” really caught my attention with the use of symphonic elements. I’m a big fan of classical elements in death metal and this short instrumental track is probably my favorite part of the record. Matt Sotelo does an impeccable job balancing his guitars with the classical elements as to not overwhelm the sound in either direction.
There are a few bonus covers at the end that were a lot of fun. They covered “Orion” by Metallica of course, “Desperate Cry” by Sepultura, and “Infecting the Crypts” by Suffocation. All three covers do justice to their original counterparts and do an excellent job of finishing up the album on a high note. With bonus goodies at the end of a record like this, it’s much easier to want to finish the entire album, from front to back. Not that this is a difficult album to listen to anyway, it feels more like a rocket ship flying through the cosmos at near light speed.
If you consider yourself a fan of death metal in general, you need this album. I’d confidently put it up as contender for one of the best records of the year as it’s definitely one of my favorites so far. ‘Axis Mundi’ is a flawless development of the band’s signature sound and fans old and new won’t be disappointed.