What would happen if Regurgitate and Incantation had a love child who was covered in so much slime at birth, thrown out on the streets in their infancy, grew up learning how to fight, full of scabs, who got meaner and meaner and turned into a mutant freak by the age of 16? Well, Jarhead Fertilizer definitely would have happened, that is for damn sure.
By taking their name from a Dystopia song and the imagery being heavily inspired by said band, the assumption of these bruisers from Maryland being just an homage band to the Crust Punk scene of the 90’s would be an undervaluing mistake because this is where the similarities really end. Sonically speaking, we really have some solid, crunchy Death Metal going on in here, riffs mixed in with dissonance of old school caveman Death Metal with oozing filth of 2000’s Grindcore acts that are reminiscent of General Surgery and Cretin. Presence of the latter elements are largely due to the relentless drumming of David Bland of Full of Hell and the ‘thick as a monster truck’ tire bass-work (see “Torture Cage” for immediate evidence) by Vinny Vitilio and Brandon Brown who also has played in Full of Hell. Speaking of the elephant in the room, Full of Hell probably tells you something when the word “intensity” comes into mind. Both bands have their own dynamics and they’re most definitely of their own kinds of beasts, sure, albeit when three quarters of a band is also playing in the other, the quality of the artistry and the aesthetical choices don’t part much.
I don’t know about you, but I really am not fond of intros or samples thrown into songs in my Death Metal. Their presence in this album is quite a lot but this time they really feed into brutality of the music and quite honestly if these parts were lacking – as much as the music being intense and heavy – I would find the album quite dry. When listened carefully, they really give the listener a sense of direction. An example to this would be ”Blood of the Lamb” – the album opener, starting with police sirens with some beat samples that really set the tone of the album from the get-go. Right away we know that there is no escapism here. We are on Earth and it is all going to be about the grime and foul of the planet. This really fits in with the music, since the first half of the album is leaning towards a groovier and grindier half of the band’s DNA.
Somewhere in the middle the album gets more and more ‘Incantationalised’ (that is a word now) and with that, the sight starts to get a slight surreal touch. By the end of the album, we hear a horn being played eight times, with such an ethereal quality that is straight out of a late Enslaved album, quite a journey eh? According to the press release, the album stems from personal history, particularly the drummer/vocalist Dave Bland’s late father, who was an ex-convict. It wasn’t much to my surprise that the music in this album comes from somewhere personal, the narrative elements in the songs clearly indicate that this is more than a straightforward Death Metal record.
One of the highlights of the album for me is the classy touch of a pummeling drum solo that concludes the track “Hysteria”. It is accompanied with sound bits of shattering glass and prison alarm (subtle storytelling is always welcome). Not only the drumming tells the listener here everything about what one needs to know what this album is about, it has been inserted into the track (or rather the album) so seamlessly that it doesn’t stand out as a drum solo track. It really made me realize that in a genre which is dominated by instrumental virtuosity, we rarely get moments like this in Death Metal.
Clocking under just a minute short of half an hour, Carceral Warfare is a ferocious bad boy that does not overstay its welcome. It is heavy, it is mean, it is dirty, it is punchy and most importantly, it is real.