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There Was Blood Everywhere

Embalmer - There Was Blood Everywhere ©1997 Relapse
1. There Was Blood Everywhere
2. The Necro-Filing Cabinet
3. Blood Sucking Freaks
4. May The Wounds Bleed Forever
5. Rotten Body Fluids
6. Bone Box
7. Morbid Confessions
8. The Cellar

Embalmer play death metal incorrectly. I know, this sounds like an incredibly pretentious thing to say, and there are plenty of reasonable claims that could be made that when assessing any art form. There can be only "good and bad", not "right and wrong" and thus, since every assessment is subjective, "good and bad" don't really mean all that much anyway. This is all fine and swell, but I must reiterate:

Embalmer really does not do the death metal thing correctly.

The first thing one will hear when tossing on There Was Blood Everywhere is a low rumble akin to a couple of burnt-to-death chicken nuggets rattling around beneath the hood of a car in dire need of an oil change, followed by a shrill spilled-milk shriek, and finally a gruff, New York Death Metal style belch over a riff that evokes "not" adjectives far more easily than affirmatives: the riff is not catchy, not brutal, not "jazzy", and not technical. It is weird, sloppy, and off-putting, which also conveniently characterizes most of the music on There Was Blood Everywhere. Oh, and the album artwork is incredibly stupid and amateuristic as well. And did I mention moronic song titles? "The Necro-Filing Cabinet"? "Bone Box"? "Rotten Body Fluids"? The production is a mess. Everything is too trebly and rickety sounding almost as if somebody was trying to apply black metal production to brutal death metal, which is never a good thing. Death metal needs to sound big and booming as massive and cartoonish as the lyrical subject matter of the bands. Black metal needs to sound dark and grim. Blackened death metal needs to be played by Dissection and Necrophobic, and not too many other bands. Embalmer does not play black metal or blackened death metal, for that matter. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

So yes, obviously, what I'm getting at is that is that I really dig There Was Blood Everywhere.

But before I get to why I like this ugly, stupid album, let's start at the start. Embalmer are an Ohio death metal band formed in 1989 and spent several years poking around in demo-distributing limbo before Relapse Records decided to put out their first label-supported release, 1995's There Was Blood Everywhere EP. Since then, the band managed to stick around and eventually squeeze out a full-length (with another supposedly in the works), despite a few line-up changes and limited interest nationally. Elsewhere, my research (drawn from the insert that comes with this CD) indicates that the band members had a penchant for long-sleeve shirts and leather jackets, and, oddly, the fattest member (as of 1995, anyway) was also the drummer. What's up with that?

Anyway, There Was Blood Everywhere combines the aforementioned Relapse EP of the same name along with a demo from 1993 titled Rotting Remains. Although two different releases and two years apart from one another, they vary very little in terms of sound and musical approach, and as such, this compilation feels more like a cohesive whole rather than a slap-together of two separate recordings. Now, what that "cohesive whole" consists of, as I started getting at above, is some rackety combination of semi-brutal death metal, over-crisped production, obtuse nonriffs, and some of the more irritating and vomitious vocals on this side of the Midwest (replete with burn-victim terror shrieks, cricket chirps, and more typical low-end growls). Put it all together, and truth be told, what you have is not a terribly pretty or appealing combination. I know that when I first sampled this album at a record store prior to buying it, I was initially turned off though I felt strangely compelled to buy it anyway (even if, for no other reason, that it was another notch in my rather pointless quest of owning every early 90s death metal album ever made).

It was only upon repeated listening that I learned to really enjoy There Was Blood Everywhere for what it is especially ugly, resolutely counter melodic death metal. Embalmer does not kick your ass with gnarly riffage or wow you with their musical prowess, but what they do succeed in doing is present a very unique, even-less-than-typically-unsexy version of death metal centered around extremely odd, uncomfortable sounding riffs that stick out and jab your ears like flying cue sticks; unpleasant, but impossible to ignore. This isn't to say that Embalmer is avant garde, as structurally speaking, the songs themselves follow the fairly standard death metal fare of speedy sections interspersed with slower ones; blastbeats and tremolo picking abound plentifully, and nobody unacquainted with death metal will mistake this for anything but death metal. Nonetheless, this album is crawling with utterly sick, unorthodox riffing (some generic guitar lines notwithstanding), and although it may take a few listenings for everything to sink in, it becomes evident that nobody else writes death metal quite like Embalmer (thankfully).

So, should you buy it? It depends on your stomach for death metal as a whole. I can't imagine this album doing a thing to convert anybody who doesn't already appreciate the genre to one degree or another, and truth be told, the material here is neither tight enough nor "out there" enough to appeal to the standard jazz-death enthusiasts who would be more accepting of the hyper-discordant material. However, if you are already a big fan of death metal and don't mind some rather dingy, lo-fi production, There Was Blood Everywhere offers a subtle, but very unique approach to a genre unfortunately blighted with a reputation for lacking diversity (especially by 1995, when the first half of this album first saw release). It isn't necessarily easy to love Embalmer's take on extreme metal, but it's certainly a hell of a lot more interesting than listening to another Suffocation clone.

Review by Hunter Brawer

Review date: 12/2010

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