Neuroma - Extremophile

After being given a copy of Neuroma's split with Dawn of Chaos (entitled "Northern Discomfort"), I was immediately hooked - not just on the intensity of the music, but on the batshit insanity of their lyrical themes - and I was absolutely certain that it was a mere sign of things to come. The band's 2010 promo featured rough cuts of three new tracks that once again only hinted at their full potential, and after what seems like an eternity, I was thrilled to see that I'd recieved a package this morning containing Neuroma's first full length album "Extremophile". Time to see if my faith has been well placed!

Having written reviews for the two aforementioned releases, any regular readers on Brutalism may remember that one of Neuroma's charms is their abilty to write lyrics and titles that will have your sides splitting - "Extremophile" is no exception. Just look at that track listing for God's sake, any band that writes songs entitled 'Centipaedophile' or 'Killed to Bits' is certified as a collective genius in my books! For example, opening track 'Gash in the Attic' starts off with vocalist Greg Cowell (more on Greg and the lyrics later) growling the lines 'Bleakness of Yorkshire drives me insane/My children stealing Hovis for cocaine/Five different fathers, seven children/My loins still crave desire for poking'. Let that sink in for a minute, because it's such silliness that recurrs throughout the entire album - one would expect this to get old quickly, but surprisingly it doesn't (let's face it, unless you have a lyric sheet handy you're hardly going to understand what's being said) and underneath the silly (albeit extremely funny) lyrical content lies a labyrinth of destructive, heavy and sometimes mindblowingly technical musicianship. The songs aren't necessarily bogging into Opeth levels of progression, but they move along at a steady enough pace to keep themselves interesting - much needed in this genre, especially when a lot of the songs present here breach the four minute mark.

My hat does off to the band's drummer Harry in particular here, as he's one of the few 'modern' death metal drummers I've come across in recent times who doesn't just relentlessly blast all over everything at any given opportunity - yes, there's still blasting, but it's tastefully done and doesn't feel enforced. And when locked in with bass wizard Joe Mortimer (or as I like to call him, the Lord Mortimus), it creates one of the tightest and pummeling rhythm sections you'll ever hear - Joe is an absolute bastard when it comes to bass playing, and smokes the hell out of a lot of better known bassists like Steve DiGiorgio by a long way. I'll get hassle for saying that, but you must bear in mind that he plays with his fingers and his work is technically outstanding - almost better than some of the guitars in a few cases. And thankfully, his bass isn't buried in the mix so bass lovers like myself can weep in joy and despair, safe in the knowledge that no matter how hard we try, we could never play at that level with such precision. Guitarists Matty and Paul are much the same, playing extremely well together with some extremely technical riffing going on in places, yet still making room for some of the 'groovier' riffs ('Semi-Skinned Milf' is a good example of the latter). They know when they need to make a transition into something else at exactly the right moment, when to speed it up, when to slow it down, when to do a solo or whatnot... it's like art, it really is. I have very little else to throw forth on the guitars so praises aside, my singular complaint with the guitar playing is that I personally would've liked to have heard more solos!

Onto Greg Cowell, who seems to have been the only minor complaint with Neuroma's material on previous releases - some people think he's somewhat one-dimensional as a vocalist - but in all honesty, if that was the case beforehand then it certainly isn't now. Agreed, Greg isn't the most versatile frontman in the genre, but what he does he does fucking perfectly. It'd be nice to break it up with more high screams here and there, but if it ain't broke then don't fix it, right? Anybody who has any qualms with the vocals on here are simply asking for Neuroma to be something they're not, for Greg to sing in a style that he and the band don't fit, and simply put, fuck 'em. He's great - far from the best of the best, but he's a good vocalist. What else do you need? To touch on the lyrics, I highly doubt that many people listen to death metal for it's lyrical content - that said, what's on offer here will have your sides splitting. As mentioned, the opening track provides an excellent start to the album and doesn't let up on the giggles (some of which I might add, are based on true stories - 'Chicken Poodle Soup' for instance!) though the humour is very British and may be lost on listeners from elsewhere in the world. And production wise, the album is a miracle in modern technology - it DOESN'T sound over produced! Thank shit for that. Chris Fielding, I take my hat off to you for having some taste and not just producing another overdone, wall-of-noise death metal album. Everything is audible, the tones are all set correctly, it's a damn slap-up production job. Well done!

I keep trailing off here, I'm still trying to keep a straight face after reading some of the lyrics present here, so I'll round up the (hastily written) review here; Buy Neuroma's "Extremophile" right now. Yes, the vocals aren't the most dynamic and varied amazing vocals ever, yes the songs can sometimes be a little on the long side, yes it's about as unique as a marshmallow, but you know what? For these few flaws, it's still one of the best death metal albums to come out of the United Kingdom in an extremely long time, and not a single piq squeal or generic breakdown in sight. I'd give this album ten out of five if I could, I love it that much - this is essential listening for fans of extreme music.

1. Gash in the Attic
2. Cyclopath
3. (O)beast
4. Chicken Poodle Soup
5. Semi-Skinned Milf
6. Killed to Bits
7. Qudraspaz
8. Centipaedophile
9. Columbine Harvester
Reviewer: Dave Ingram Jr.
Jul 20, 2011

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