Maryland death metal act Dying Fetus have been absent from the studio for quite a while, having last been heard in 2012 with their album Reign Supreme. Their latest album, Wrong One To Fuck With, marks the end of a 5-year wait for new material: the longest gap between new albums across their career. For someone like me, the wait for a new Dying Fetus album has felt like an eternity, especially since they’re arguably my favorite death metal act of all time, only really tied with The Black Dahlia Murder. But the wait is finally over, and the band has bestowed us with yet another set of dizzying, technical, hard-hitting metal jams worthy of a name as brutal as theirs.
The material on Wrong One To Fuck With falls squarely in line with their past few albums: combining the gritty and brutal songwriting of their classic ‘90s material with the tighter and more polished production of their 2000’s output. The album opener “Fixated On Devastation” is a good primer for what to expect from the tracks ahead: a phenomenal display of dizzying arpeggios, guitar taps, and frenetic shreds mixed with some heavy slamming grooves and fast-paced technical drum work. The grooves are massive, the musicianship on display is masterful, and the rhythmic interplay between the instrumentation is completely on point, and the onslaught only continues further and further.
The tightness of the grooves has always been a major point in Dying Fetus’ favor, and there is no shortage of massive guitar slams locked in perfect sync with the fast and furious drum work. “Die With Integrity” opens with a triplet guitar riff maintaining a slow building tempo before exploding into the frenetic chaos that is to be expected. The song as a whole makes great use of high-and-low end guitars, bouncing back and forth between chunky riffs and lead tremolos/harmonics. Similarly, “Unmitigated Detestation” shows the same contrast as the guitar work swings between low-end riffs and squealing pinch harmonics. It’s a great exercise in tension and release, as it shows the album’s tendency to build from slow to fast. “Seething With Disdain” shows the same idea but in reverse, as the song comes thrashing right out of the gate and pummels the listener into submission before backing off into a steadier groove that quickly picks up speed back into the wacked-out arpeggios, and the drums manage to keep up and reinforce the tempo shifts, and there’s a great bit where they fall into a fast double-bass groove that contrasts with the half-time ride cymbal hits.
The slower moments of the album are quite the showstopper, especially when they give John Gallagher’s vocals a chance to truly shine through and show their absolute guttural menace. The aforementioned “Seething With Disdain” is the best example of this, as the half-time grooves near the end create a vastness that present breathing room for some absolutely guttural vocals that echo over the song. The deep bellowing vocal assault is the glue that helps keep all the madness together, and John once again proves himself as one of the most gloriously vile people to ever get in front of the mic. The title track that closes out the record is a great summation of everything that the album has achieved up to that point: wild shredding guitars locked in place with strong, pummeling blastbeats, monstrously slow grooves that compliment and contrast with the noodling arpeggios, and quite a lot of rhythmic variation as it throws a lot of extended measures and offbeat accentuations to keep you on your toes.
There’s not much else that can be said about the aural onslaught of Wrong One To Fuck With. The musicianship is as tight as Dying Fetus have ever sounded, with the grooves and fast thrashing bits being absolutely immaculate. The songwriting is textbook death metal brutality, maintaining the right balance between the heavy slamming grooves and dizzying displays of musical technique and virtuosity. Every song is an absolute beast of a metal track, with not a single bad track/bit of filler in the bunch. Dying Fetus have once again stayed on top of their game and proving why they still remain one of the biggest names in their genre, showing us that the five year wait for new material was more than worth it.
Verdict: Buy it. One of the most satisfyingly brutal listens you’ll experience all year.
Wrong One To Fuck With is available from Relapse Records on CD, vinyl, digital download (iTunes, Bandcamp, etc.) and streaming services.
[Note: A pre-release copy of this album was provided by Relapse Records for the purpose of this review.]