Decrepit Birth – Polarity
Typical of most formal U-turns, Decrepit Birth‘s listenership often divides between premier full length …And Time Begins and the sophomore (but hardly sophomoric) Diminishing Between Worlds. The latter is the superior disc, though not necessarily out of spite regarding Time‘s brutal chassis; populist, West Coast death metal has had highs (Of What’s To Come, Cryptic Implosion, and possibly Servile Insurrection) and lows (um, take your pick) since around the time of Worlds‘ release, and claimed a monopoly over North American, newfangled tech death. Finding it unseemly to preface a new effort’s review with hyperbole about the one preceding it, new entry Polarity‘s comparison is, well, apt. Decrepit Birth possessed an appeal for texture, imbuing pulpy topics about dimensions (those were popular across the board) with an archaic voice, often feeling wrought in stone and recorded in the middle of a henge. From the production’s echo-y soloing to expansive song pallets, a bombastic and imposing school of riffcraft (courtesy Matt Sotelo), feeling often East/Frank Herbert inspired, lent towards a sound transformed from its own time – often.
Enter Polarity, in what is very much a follow up to Worlds in terms of phrasing, but certainly not much else; which is deceptive after all, since Sotelo/Worlds‘ grab bag of stylistic motifs are the immediate surface of Polarity. Despite sharing less in common with Worlds than Worlds does with …And Time Begins (believe it or not), Polarity is mostly derivative of its techniques… and rarely anything else. What I mean by this is, that the most immediate reaction a Decrepit Birth listener should have is that this is more of an adaptation of Diminishing Between Worlds’ most popular elements, and even full riffs lifted wholesale. Whether the most grievous example of this on the album (in “Mirroring Dimensions”) is intentional in bridging conceptual elements from past works, it is clear that this is ultimately a redux of the previous, public near-success that was Diminishing Between Worlds.
The crossover audience that appreciated the sensationalistic elements of Worlds were also thrown a bonus of “real” death metal cred – and I still give credit to the, for lack of a better term, accessibility of Decrepit Birth’s 2008 incarnation. Here, we have a reworked version that is more tailor made to the accessible. And what truly original material remains stringing the shameless reinterpretations together are either afterthought transitions, “metallic” half time voids, or bizzare uses of midi tones. Opening track “Ignite The Tesla Coil” has its fair share of self-plagiary, yet ends up being the standout track for indulging in the goofiness that is boringly vacant for the rest of the duration, structural warts and all (acoustic breaks clumsily fall into the track in more than one place).
Virtuosic elements also feel more conventional, where the monstrously talented (and since departed) KC Howard is merely relegated to thrashy timekeeping. He manages to sneak in some of his neato kick fills but is regrettably leashed to a humdrum melodeath post. As for Sotelo, his solos are less inquiring, wading through a cocky cheese that knows when to start and already has a four bar phrase predestined to end it; as mentioned, terribly conventional, where even the most indulgent leaps into solodom felt like forging into new layers dreamily headfirst on Worlds. Ending the forgettable “Darkness Embrace” is a series of three midi notes that transcribe to I don’t give a flying fuck, cutting off a wholly remixed and easier to grasp version of Diminishing Between Worlds, while replacing the latter’s willingness to expand its breadth with disposable conventionality – too bad.