Written by Dylan Brandsema
With their 2012 debut The Palpable Leprosy of Pollution, Infant Annihilator cemented themselves as part of a musical movement – the rise of extreme deathcore. While bands like Whitechapel and Job For A Cowboy were the most popular names of the genre and inspired countless clones, Infant Annihilator found a niche for themselves mixing technical death metal and grindcore musical structure, but with a deathcore delivery, turning all of those up 11 and then some.
All the while their lyrical themes included subjects such as the glorification and celebration of pedophilia and child molestation, miscarriages/abortions, necrophilia, and many others you can probably imagine, but don’t want to. These themes were obviously not new to the genre, but with Infant Annihilator they reached heights of true repulsion. They were the musical equivalent of the scene in A Clockwork Orange where Alex has his eyes held open — a band that forced you to pay attention to them, whether you wanted to or not, and luckily, their music lived up to their hype.
Fast forward to 2016. The mainstream excitement surrounding this extreme genre has fizzled tremendously, but still has it’s place in the modern metal hemisphere. Bands like Chelsea Grin and Despised Icon have made considerable comebacks, and now with four years since their debut, Infant Annihilator’s The Elysian Grandeval Galèriarch (humorously abbreviated as The Egg) feels like an unexpected, yet welcome, altogether more-than-appropriate follow-up.
In similar spirit to the previous album’s opener the first track “Unholy Gravebirth” begins with the wailing sound of a crying baby. Unlike the former, though, this crying slowly morphs into an indefinable, demon-like gastric growling which blends in with the ambient, yet hellish background instrumental. Talk about a fitting reintroduction.
This track, as well as the first few tracks in general, do a good job of showcases not only the new band’s new overall approach and sound, but more importantly, the abilities of the new vocalist, Dickie Allen. There is absolutely no debate to be had over whether he is a better vocalist than the band’s previous Dan Watson – Allen’s range is incredible, sometimes emitting almost inhuman-sounding growls and screams. Dan’s vocal work on TPLOP were serviceable enough, but replaceable. Allen’s filthy, grimy spitfire delivery allows the new vocal style on this record to further shape Infant Annihilator’s unique sound, and it adds new a layer of terrific nastiness to the band’s already putrid aura. The occasional the pig squeals and snorts on some of these early tracks are bit too much into extreme grind territory for my liking, but they’re used sparingly enough to not tarnish the overall effect single song.
Concerning vocals, too, there are a number gues vocal features (as there was on the previous record) including Chris Whited of Lost Fortune, Bryan Long of Dealy Plaza, Dillon Becker of Animalfarm, and Tyler Shelton of Traitor, all of which are on the track “Behold The Kingdom of The Wretched Undying”. In all truthfulness, even after two attentive listens, I couldn’t pinpoint a single one of them without following the band’s liner notes. Except for Tyler Shelton’s, because of his instantly recognizable delivery. His contribution to the very end of the song quite literally sounds like someone screaming while being tortured. Surely this is the only context where that kind of description is a compliment.
“Beyond The Kingdom of The Wretched Undying” is, by default, the most noteworthy track on the album due to it’s epic length of 17 minutes and 40 seconds, the band’s most reaching venture to date. The sprawling track is split into four parts:
“He, Who Dwells In Shadows”
“They, Who Hunt Beneath”
“He, Who Holds Dominion”, and
“Rise Monolithic Overlord”
Unless you’re actively following the lyrics (good luck), it’s impossible to tell when each chapter is supposed to be begin and end. It mostly feels more like six or seven great songs edited together as opposed to four separate, fantastic movements. Despite this, it’s undoubtedly a song worth listening to, and one of the best on the album.
It’s also a pretty bold move on the band’s part to place a track of such epic length smack dab in the middle of the album (the 5th track of a total 11). Every album I’ve come across where one song is purposely long than the others, it’s almost always the first or last track. Placing a song like this in the middle of the track order could have completely screwed up the pacing of the album as a whole, but in this case, it likely worked in the album’s favor, as if the first half of the album were the appetizers, and now we’re getting to the entree. An anti-intermission, if you can believe that’s a thing. Point is: this is the song you’ll remember most when you look back at the album later.
Earlier I mentioned the band’s “new sound”. It’s kind of hard to describe – it’s similar to the first album, but with much more emphasis on the “Holy hell, how are they even playing this stuff?” factor. One noticeable step in a different direction is the effort to incorporate more sweeping guitar solos and melodies, as opposed to crushing riffs and sludge-like staccatos. And it works, no question – there’s lots of killer guitar work here, especially on songs like “Crucilfith,” “Baptised. Bastardised. Sodmised.”, “Beyond The Kingdom of The Wretched Undying,” and “Neutered in Utero.” Much of the guitar work seems to lean towards the band’s more tech-death, prog side, such as on songs like “Behold,” “Paedophilic Ultimatum,” and “Motherless Miscarriage” (which, by the way, gets an A+ from me for featuring soundbites from this year’s horror masterpiece The Witch), where machine-gun-speed guitar interludes seem to insert themselves wherever they damn well please. And of course, it works every time.
The album’s biggest falter comes at the tail end of the album with the song “Pelt of Innocent Felt.” To sum it up, it’s boring. It predictably does nothing musically to separate itself from any other Infant Annihilator song, and it feels like it belongs to a different album. “Blasphemian,” the song that follows, isn’t much of an improvement either, until it’s very end, which features a sludgey slow-winding doom crawl that develops into utter madness when it eventually becomes a scatterbrain big rock ending of sorts that sounds like a million firecrackers going off inside the belly of Satan himself. The album officially ends, though, with the silly 12-second closer “Neonatalimpalionecrophiliation,” which features a barrage of seemingly random instrumentation, followed a raspberry leading leading up to a high fasletto, closing out with a down-winding mudslide of guitar. Is this track necessary to have as the album’s closer? Of course not. Is it awesome and hilarious that they put it their anyway? Abso-freakin’-lutely.
Above everything else, though, the biggest discernable difference that divorces The Elysian Grandeval Galèriarch from Infant Annihilator’s previous material, and perhaps places it above it, is not the music itself, but the themes and subject matter surrounding the lyrics. While much of the silly gore-porn lyricism and shock just for shock’s sake still exists here, a lot of the lyrical focus centers around religion — not just religion as a whole, but the concepts of devout and ultimate worship, the rise and fall of religious figureheads, and of course, moral and political corruption within religious institutions. The fusing of the vile and the gross mixed with the serious depictions of the faith feels like both extreme and uttermost provocation for the sole purpose of the band’s amusement, but also, in some ways, a criticism and a calling out of religion throughout history. The lyrics of the 17-minute “Behold The Kingdom of the Wretched Undying” seem to a tell sort of a story about the evolution, and perhaps the ultimate destruction a religious organization due to corruption and taboo sexual perversion. Overly edgy and graphic lyrics are to be expected from Infant Annihilator, but in some moments here, there might just be something of substance on a level of a pure musical storytelling, even if it is the most revolting and repugnant thing you’ve ever heard.
An apt description of this album as a whole would be…depraved and uncontrollable. With their sophomore release, Infant Annihilator have proved themselves masters of the ultra-extreme deathcore genre, going places musically I can’t even fathom other bands would try, or would want to try. There were moments frequently throughout where I had to convince myself I was still listening to music being composed and played by human beings. It is total and complete musical anarchy, and the only way to get through it is to be embrace the beautiful, deranged madness. Listening to The Elysian Grandeval Galeriarch front to back is like being physically assaulted for 58 minutes, with only small breaks to take a breather in between punches. As both a fan and a critic, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Baptised. Bastardised. Sodomized.”
“Behold The Kingdom Of The Wretched Undying”
“Soil The Stillborn”
Rating 8 out of 10