Monday, May 16, 2011

Review: Enmity - Illuminations of Vile Engorgement

The fact that this record receives so much hate from the death metal scene at large means a couple things: one, that it's assuredly one of the best death metal records ever released, and two, that the death metal scene's priorities are far out of whack. I mean, logically, if you're listening to death metal for the right reasons (those being its brutality and animosity towards... well, everything), then this album, which entirely eschews things like 'melody' and 'structure' should be basically flawless, right? Actually, maybe the truth is something a little more painful for the scene: Enmity is actually TOO BRUTAL for death metal fans, who would be better off listening to, say, Yanni or Obituary or some other pop music like that. The cool people will be over here listening to this, rewinding over and over again because they thought they might have heard an actual riff on 'Hacksaw Spinal Butchery'.

If you're reading this review, you're certainly clued in to what Enmity sounds like, though I'm not sure the written word properly communicates just how brutal this record manages to be. The closest approximation would be Last Days Of Humanity's seminal 'Putrefaction In Progress', were you to replace the frantic, gnawing nature of that release with a dismal, mechanical delivery ala early Fleshgrind. This is obscenely brutal: rhythmically, the band operates only in blast or bizarre, offtime slam, and melodically, well, there's nothing present. I'm entirely sure that the guitar on this release is composed of actual riffs but I've never heard a production job which is able to more fully strip away the tonal properties of an ostensibly melodic instrument. You listen to the guitars and you can hear the pitch moving up and down, but no actual NOTES come out the other side. Tabbing this album would be quite literally impossible simply because there's no way you could replicate the sound of the instrument accurately enough for your playing to actually sound like it. The vocals are basically a Wormed-style wet slurring noise. If the lyrics are broken up into actual words, I'm not able to tell.

Clearly the members of this band are masters of their instruments; it's difficult to tell if they're doing what they're doing correctly, but they manage to do it the same way over and over again, so clearly they have their shit together. This sort of goes for the rest of the music as well; it's almost impossible to tell if what's going on is the way it's supposed to be, but it was released on a record label and apparently met the band's approval, so I suppose one has to suspend their disbelief that this was their ultimate vision. There's nothing redeeming about this record: you either appreciate it for what it is, a pure monolith of insane brutality, or you hate it for the same reason. At least what it is isn't in debate; everyone appears to basically acknowledge that this is one of (if not the) most brutal records to date. The question is whether you'll listen to it for that reason alone, to be repeatedly confronted by the sheer unspeakable brutality that this album is composed of.

I've listened to this probably twenty times and I'm still not sure if I'm any closer to understanding it than I was at the beginning, but I do know that I absolutely love it. Then again, I think brutality for brutality's sake is one of the most legitimate goals a death metal record can have. This is essentially the 'Butchered At Birth' of a new generation, and if you can appreciate stuff like this, you owe it to yourself and to the retarded geniuses who somehow composed this monstrosity to hear it.

(As a quick addendum: to anyone who thinks the guys behind this are just cavemen, give 'Severe Lacerations' a quick listen. An experimental acoustic guitar piece influenced by flamenco, jazz, and perhaps the atonal, experimental works of guitarists like Fred Frith? They know what they're doing more than you ever will.)

Buy this album on Amazon


  1. I think part of the reason for the hate is that a lot of death metallers are heavy metal fans at heart. Stuff like this - with its completely over the top "brutality" and its obsessive will to subvert traditional musicality - is more along the lines of punk ideals or something, or maybe the ideals of deconstructive types of experimental music. Personally, I have similar feelings to the people who dislike this stuff. I don't really care what the alleged raison d'etre of death metal is; the further death metal gets from what I consider to be heavy metal ideals, the less interested I become. It's why I prefer listening to The Chasm rather than Devourment. If I'm looking for something that purports to be metal, this isn't what I'm looking for.

  2. nicely put, dude! as more of a black metal guy myself, i've had the same thought about the really raw/minimal bands... the thing is, i come from a punk/HC background so that stuff resonates with me. but only when it doesn't blow, which is rare these days.

  3. understandable, whereas i basically came into metal via death and black metal, so heavy metal is basically a side note to what i really like, which is brutality and extremity

  4. Rasmus from DenmarkJune 23, 2011 at 6:15 AM

    Since reading your post on this blog, I've felt compelled to reassess my whole take on Enmity's album, and I must say that I've come to appreciate it more now after a couple of additional listens. A testament to the power of good writing and sound arguments, I guess. Well done.

  5. If you think this album is good, you are wrong. You are demonstrably wrong. And quite possibly even a bad person. Here, read my review of it: