A rotten forearm with a barely-attached appendage grasping an Innumerable Forms Punishment in Flesh cassette tape emerges from a sickly, disease-ridden body of water. Do you lean over from your dry ground to take your offering? Risking the occurrence of your fall into the bubbly abyss?? The answer is yes, because this new Innumerable Forms death metal LP is quite exquisite.
Punishment in Flesh marks a great stepping stone in the group’s career not only because it is their first full-length record, but also because they have amassed an official lineup for the sake of the release. Previously, founder Justin DeTore took charge of his band’s creative process, and subsequently played all instruments and vocals on Innumerable Forms’ past releases. Now however, DeTore is joined in the studio and on the road by a well-experienced and respected lineup. While DeTore maintains his spot as vocalist and guitarist, guitarists Chris Ulsh (Power Trip and Mammoth Grinder) and Jensen Ward have joined, with bassist Doug Cho (Rival Mob) completing the stringed-instrument quartet. Finally, Connor Donegan (Genocide Pact) crashes in on the drums. Such a lineup with bigger names such as Power Trip and Genocide Pact has undoubtedly contributed to the hype around this release.
As for the music goes, the release is labelled under the death metal subgenre, but plays more towards the likes of a death/doom archetype. While there are some faster-paced sections coupled with blast beats, most of what you find are the traditional death/doom prolonged deep guitar note in unison with a guttural growl at the beginning of some tracks (like at the start of the song below), which then further expand upon such ideas.
I particularly enjoy the themes of this release. Unlike other death metal albums which flaunt gore and guts for the shock value, this release kind of meets that notion in the middle. I mean, you can’t deny the presence of the abhorrent entity on the album art, it is death metal after all, but the song titles and lyrical themes offer the listener a lot more. Even the song titles alone – “Reality”, “Joyless”, and “Meaning” all allude to greater human feelings that encumber us all, no matter how tall we stand. The record accompanies these lyrical ideals with a crawling, punishing instrumentation that matches the vibe of such discussed above.
The one highlight I will cite lies within the guitar solos. Whenever I don’t fall in love with a release, I can always count on the solos to partially win me over. Perhaps its the nonsensical nature of the category, in the sense that the notes are being played so fast that the artist could miss a note or have a different performance each time and I wouldn’t necessarily notice. With that being said, the death/doom outputs of past (historical and recent) always seem to contain these gross-sounding, almost psychedelic guitar solos that fit the vibe perfectly. I’m looking at Autopsy and Mortuous – two very similar bands, old and new respectively, that both feature these solos I described above throughout their discographies. Such is to be equally said about Punishment in Flesh. The album’s lead guitar work is fairly exceptional, and is one of the things that stands out on a relatively flat release.
In terms of criticism, I personally feel like the lack of consistently-found vocals throughout the album hinder the release as the instrumentation cannot stand alone. While the underlying music is solid in the sense that it holds its own, the material seems somewhat uninspired and predictable. You know how thrash music kind of all sounds the same? As in if you’ve heard ten thrash metal songs you’ve heard them all? Well, I listen to death metal to escape that predictability, and I’m getting those vibes from Punishment in Flesh. While the album is good, it fails to attract my attention from beginning to end. Honestly, I wasn’t even interested in this release because I found the singles a tad drawn out and slow, but I opted in when I heard some of the faster-paced and interesting tracks. I thought the availability of the entire work would help me escape these negative feelings, but unfortunately it did not. After a handful of listens, my virgin premonitions were proven correct.
My final verdict falls upon they who listen. My tastes don’t lean towards the death/doom subgenre of metal; I find the style somewhat tedious and half-hearted. However, I did see the community’s excitement for Punishment in Flesh and the subsequent rapture of approval that opened following the unveiling. So, I’ll leave you with this. If you’re a death/doom fan and enjoyed Mortuous’ debut output earlier this year, then make a conscious effort to inspect Punishment in Flesh, they play in the same vein. However, this record won’t turn any severed heads that aren’t already interested in death/doom; it didn’t peak my interest, but I can tell its quality metal.