In the most recent edition of my column here on antiMusic.com, I introduced you folks to Sadomasochism, an exceedingly talented brutal death metal act from my hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Formed in 1999, Sadomasochism began pillaging venues with live gigs up until 2003, when they released their sole album, Worship the Dark. In late 2004, tensions within the band's highly self-conscious members (the likes of whom were often very hard on themselves due to the highly technical style Sadomasochism had) boiled over, and frontman John Rios decided to disband the outfit permanently and starting anew despite owning the rights to the Sadomasochism name.
After this turn of events, Rios jammed with former guitarist Jason Salmer and drummer Jason "J-Son" Kandea. Finding that their long-time friendship, comradery, and musical cohesion was still intact, the three began pulling strings to form a new band. Recruiting metalheads from the increasingly fertile but tight-knit Western Michigan underground (with bands like Project Apocalypse, Three Prong-Paw, Summon, and Blackid Nocta gaining steam) Sadomasochism's initial goals of retrogressive, classic Floridian-era death metal were reborn from the ashes as Flesh for the Beast.
Recorded in a basement studio and self-released in 2005, Devouring earns its simplistic, vicious title with ease. In many ways, the band's once absurdly complex song structures found themselves stripped to the bone, and with all the fatty, self-gratifying technical prowess removed. The end result is a shorter, leaner, and much more animalistic album; things feel fast, brutal, and downright cannibalistic. In fact, so fierce do the band outdo themselves on some songs (with things being tighter, simpler, and that much more stomping) that you'll swear that the album's name isn't a title but a promise; this band is hungry for success and legitimately sounds like they'd eat you if it would further their amazing music.
Also apparent were the new influences injected into the band. With many of the aforementioned local acts that Flesh for the Beast collaborated with being black/thrash metal bands, some of those elements appear on the album, none of which is a surprise considering the band's vehement anti-religious messages. At other times, Rios injects his hard rock worship of KISS into some of the more uptempo riffs, and passages of sludge, groove ala Pantera, and even 1980's hardcore are present in portions.
"Vengeance is Mine" shows off the new force right away, tank-like riffs mixing with sinister tremolo picking and thundering firestorms of percussion. In many ways, this really is revenge for the band; despite all they've faced, here is an outfit sounding like they're even better than before despite all the adversity they've faced. New bassist Mark Kinley in particular shines (though at the time this was recorded with a different member) kicking off a gargantuan groove that the band has never showcased before. The song eventually goes into ecstatic, defiant guitar cascades, which slowly die off to be replaced by that same kickass groove. A great start to the album, says me.
"Accessory to Murder" will get stuck into your head like an icepick for days; mammoth chainsaw guts of slow-tempo death metal ala Death leading into straightforward Cannibal Corpse chug and a lot of rocking out. Kandea takes the cake here with some absolutely manic cymbal work, sounds really painful on his arms. "Bloodlust" goes right for the kill with a surprisingly crunchy slab of meaty metal with some fiery melody layered on top. One of the faster and more murderous cuts on the album, this song hits like the blunt end of a hammer to your head. The utterly crushing "God's Hand Killer" is like somebody sticking an ax through your skull, then slowly dragging your corpse into a hole with it. The band enters into an extremely surprising sense of massive groove ala Immolation, never really going anywhere beyond slow, thick death metal. A bit of faux speed near the end makes it even better, as it shows the band can tease you with some of their more normal material without really giving in to their tightened restraint. Nice bait-and-switch. "I Am Your God" starts off with a crystalline piano sample I think doesn't fit super well (didn't see it coming maybe) and that launches into lacerating, explosive death brutality. There are lots of divine leads and insane breakdowns. "Kingdom of the Wicked" stalks you with coiled precision and pounces on you with lithe, quick death metal again and again. I can't imagine anything with this track live besides lots of neck-snapping windmill headbanging. "My Bloody Bitch Hog" has a shockingly large amount of glam in the uptempo, fist-pumping death 'n roll riffs. A real change of pace, yet still the band you love. "Unholy Creation" is arguably the best track, capturing the straightforward asskicking of the new album with the insane, manic pandemonium that made Sadomasochism a local favorite in the first place. "Hacked to Pieces" closes the album with what it started; purist, gore-soaked death metal with a little bit of blasphemy thrown in. Add some excellent guitar gymnastics from duel axmen Jason Salmer and Steve Giles, and you've got a great album, start to finish. Technically, there is a tenth, untitled track hidden in there. A soft, clean break with some kindly guitar chords and light symphonic flourishes, it will catch you off guard but lets you cool down a bit and is oddly welcome, like a friend you didn't expect to run into but don't regret seeing one stinking iota.
Like I said before, here is a band who is hungry for more. It makes me want to kill seeing a band this talented go unrecognized for their work ethic, determination, and overall knack for writing exquisite tunes in a genre. Basically, Flesh for the Beast have everything they need for greater things, save a little luck. I would give this another full score of 5 stars, but I feel that the band haven't truly decided which way to bring their death metal yet, and though every song on Devouring is top-notch, a lot of variation is present and personally, I like the band playing straightforward brutal death with tons of oldschool leads, solos, and fills. The groove is nice and all, but plenty of bands do that already nowadays, to the point where it is almost expected from people like myself and isn't very novel anymore. Regardless, Devouring is a superb album and comes highly recommended. Oh, and here's hoping the next CD slays this much, and that the band bites the hand that feeds them so to speak, in keeping with their character. Four and a half stars.
1. Vengeance is Mine
2. Accessory to Murder
4. God's Hand Killler
5. I Am Your God
6. Kingdom of the Wicked
7. My Bloody Bitchhog
8. Unholy Creation
9. Hacked to Pieces
10. Untitled Outro (hidden track)