It is honestly surprising that the German brutal death metal band Stillbirth has been around for over twenty years and have released seven records since their inception. For a band that has been in the scene for a hot minute, they have seen mostly local success. Here’s hoping that their newest offering, H*mo Deus goes a long way in changing that so that they can find larger audiences on a worldwide scale.
What you get with H*mo Deus is eleven tracks of unapologetic brutal death metal with flavors borrowed from closely related subgenres. Their style of metal veers into the realm of slam metal with dashes of deathcore strewn around the place. Fret not, all you core haters, Stillbirth is more brutal death and slam than deathcore!
In the age of metal that takes itself way too seriously to a point of vitriolic pretense, bands like Stillbirth feel like a throwback to simpler times. The lyrical themes and graphic imagery paint near comedic levels of ultraviolence that harken back to bands like early Cannibal Corpse and Aborted. Musically however, the riffs and arrangements are presented with much more modern leanings, with tracks like the titular “H*mo Deus” throwing in Gothenburg melodeath riffs and even a couple of tasty solos. In this regard, Stillbirth gets pretty close to melodic deathcore to the tune of mid-career The Black Dahlia Murder, albeit with slammy breakdowns borrowed from the brutal death genre.
One of the things to look forward to with bands relying on punchier songwriting is the emphasis on groove over overly intricate riffs and tracks like “Slaughtered and Disemboweled” have plenty of caveman groove to it. The closest comparison to the current Stillbirth sound presented on H*mo Deus is Pathology, with many of the tropes being shared by both bands. The cheeky bell work on the drums on “Slaughtered and Disemboweled”, though a staple to the slam genre, continues to be grin and headbang infusing at the same time. Not to be condemned as yet another caveman slam band, tracks like the single “Rising From The Ashes” opens with an atmospheric clean intro riff before dropping us right into the business end of the slam machine. Another curveball is the southern rock-esque bluesy intro grit on “Tribunal of Penance”. That track feels like a slammy Pantera, and it is a sound that is remarkably fresh in a stale genre.
Stillbirth leans heavily into the radioactive waste/mutant alien imagery with various samples as seen on the opener “The Hunt”, “Autonomous Eradication”, and closer “Get Out” quite similar to fellow German death metallers Cytotoxin. But Stillbirth keeps their music more focused on keeping their tracks groovy and slammy, whereas Cytotoxin can get pretty wacky in terms of weedle-tech death.
Look, H*mo Deus isn’t going to win any awards in terms of envelope-pushing creativity. Stillbirth isn’t trying to be progressive or novel. They are merely trying to write enjoyable death metal, and H*mo Deus succeeds in that regard. The guitar work is filled with plenty of riffs and catchy breakdowns, though nothing groundbreaking is still far from being the stalest in the scene. In particular, the drums are as “playful” as could be imagined in an extreme metal record with nods and winks in terms of cowbell hits, reverse snares, and cymbal work that goes a long way to break up the monotony of simplistic chromatic breakdowns which are given in this genre.
The vocals in Stillbirth aim at being as varied as can be expected while staying within the bounds of what we expect in a brutal death metal band. The mainstay range is more bark than rumble, but the vocals can even reach pure deathcore-fry like on “Descending” which is a great accompaniment to the heavy riff-focused sections on the track. This isn’t to say that the vocalist cannot burp his gutturals with the best of them, but it is refreshing that he doesn’t stay in one pocket and explores as many registers as possible to suit the needs of the track. The production on H*mo Deus is another win, opting for modern death metal sounds like Aborted than the overly wet hyper-compressed mixes that seem to plague the genre.
H*mo Deus is a surprisingly enjoyable slab of brutal death metal with hints of deathcore and slam metal. While not attempting to reinvent the wheel, Stillbirth continues to write creatively fresh riffs to separate them from the pack in a genre plagued with monotony. A band that doesn’t take itself too seriously and can write fun extreme metal is a great find!