Ah that most unique beast, the covers album. Maligned by many as a stalling tactic and lauded by others as incisive cross sections of a bands’ influences. Like ‘em or not, Dying Fetus’ new release History Repeats is just that.
Beginning with Dehumanized’s ‘Fade into Obscurity’, you get the impression that this could well be a Fetus song in terms of the slamming chug. It also seems to give you a taste of their origins in the sweaty ill lit basements of the NYDM scene. However, when compared with the original you might find that a touch of that grimy ambience is lost in the clean major-label production. What’s lost through this however is compensated for by John Gallagher’s savage vocal delivery, coupled with Fetus’ filthy trademark guitar sound; consequently allowing this song to lend itself effortlessly to their cannon.
The next three tracks hurtle by in under five minutes, paying homage to Dying Fetus’ grindcore influences. ‘Unchallenged Hate’ loses an element of its maniacal intensity towards latter sections, with Sean Beasley’s high pitched vocals sounding positively conservative compared with Lee Dorrian’s sexually abused tauntaun approach on the original track. However, covering a Bill Steer era Napalm Death track does go some way to compensating for the lack of Carcass on this record. The presence of which I would have been prepared to put money on. The grind frenzy continues into Broken Hope’s ‘Gorehog’, and the only original Dying Fetus track (and shortest to date at 0:43) on this record, ‘Rohypnol’. At this point, in true grindcore fashion, everything starts to sound ever so slightly similar, and as a stand alone album, this three track section is arguably its weakest. For those lovers of sheer velocity or a penchant for the punkier side of death metal however there’s plenty to love here.
The next two tracks personally came as a pleasant surprise with Bolt Thrower’s ‘Unleashed upon Mankind’ and Pestilence’s ‘Twisted Truth’. Although we still get the grimy Fetus sound, this section is shot through with melody, particularly in the solos which definitely deviates from the normal sweep pick-a-thon. Furthermore, on ‘Twisted Truth’ in particular there’s a certain elusive upwards mobility present which stands at odds with Fetus’ usuall vomit soaked filth attack. Although, obviously these two tracks are covers, once again, Fetus make them their own, fusing melody and brutality in a truly striking way. Particularly their take on Pestilence’s cosmically prog-inflected sound adds another dimension to the regular heads-down brutality of a normal outing.
No doubt many Fetus fans will already be familiar with their cover of Cannibal Corpse’s ‘Born in a Casket’, as it’s been floating around in various formats for a few years now. Nothing sets this version apart from the original especially aside from the atmosphere of the intro, as the opening chords are bathed in haunting feedback. The main parallel can be drawn between vocal performances, however in that Chris Barnes is taken to school by John Gallagher here. Strictly speaking it’s true of every track on the album that Gallagher’s garrotted Rottweiler vocals contribute an added visceral sucker punch, and it’s never as apparent as on this, the final track.
To summarise, then, if you’re curious about this band’s influences in terms of brutality, technicality, lyrical content etc, then you may well find this release to be an education. Furthermore, you’ll very likely find a few surprises here if (like me) you were primarily expecting to hear the likes of Carcass and Suffocation. As a stand alone it’s not without it’s limitations, so noobs if you’re reading this you may want to start with something like Descend into Depravity to get a truer representation of what Dying Fetus are about. For seasoned fans though, you need to hear this.