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Some things thankfully never change. The Malevolent Creation of the Mid-Atlantic, better known as Dying Fetus, is one of those things. Since forming in the halcyon days of death metal in 1991 John Gallagher and his comrades have continually flown the flag, they have been the subject of imitation across the globe and have weathered industry changes, trends and the whims of popular opinion. “Wrong One To Fuck With” is the closest to a spiritual successor to “Killing On Adrenaline” from 1998. Dying Fetus were never known for their subtlety and this album has no intentions of doing things differently. There aren’t a lot of Maryland bands that matter in the grand scheme of things. Aurora Borealis is one, Misery Index in the other. Dying Fetus, of course, is the top-tier band of their region.

The perceptive will certainly have noticed that the original Dying Fetus logo has been restored, a first since the “Grotesque Impalement” EP from 2000. The muddy artwork might not be much (it certainly is no match to the collage art of “Killing On Adrenaline”, “Destroy the Opposition”, “Stop At Nothing” and even “War Of Attrition”) and the hardcore album title might not exactly inspire confidence, but “Wrong One To Fuck With” harkens back to the band’s earlier, grimier days while retaining their signature technicality and showmanship. It’s exactly the sort of album that we’d hope the Gallagher-Beasley-Williams trifecta – now almost a decade in effect and the longest-running constellation since the classic Netherton days – still had in their cylinders. “Wrong One To Fuck With”, for better or worse, is a callback to the long forgotten demo days of “Infatuation With Malevolence” with their modern schwung and technical prowess.

As unbelievable as it may sound Dying Fetus is now an elder statesman of the genre. Age might not have dulled Gallagher but “Wrong One To Fuck With” is certainly a lot more reserved than any of their more recent outings. The Beasley era is often accused of being one of inconsistency. Dying Fetus has always remained true to the tenets of their sound. Some albums might be more hardcore inspired, others might be more technical – what always rings true is that Gallagher never indulges in left-of-field creative experiments. It’s as much a bone of contention as it is a seal of approval that Dying Fetus can be counted upon to deliver the goods in a consistent and timely manner. It’s the sort of productivity you’d wish Morbid Angel, Vital Remains, Deceased and Monstrosity had. The old Fetus seldom disappoints and even at their worst they’re still better than most, which is saying a lot considering the overall state of the underground metal scene these days.

Spanning 10 tracks (11 on special editions) and a gargantuan 54 minutes “Wrong One To Fuck With” is certainly the longest Dying Fetus offering to date. It takes more after “Infatuation With Malevolence” and “Purification Through Violence” than it does after “Killing On Adrenaline” and “Stop At Nothing”. The production is slightly rawer than past outings and the drum tones were a lot more commanding on “Stop At Nothing” – yet those minor qualms aside it’s still the Dying Fetus everyone has come to love (or hate, depending on who you ask). The album artwork clearly took a cue from the poster art to the William Lustig slasher Maniac (1980). Apparenty Gallagher envisioned a far more gruesome artwork but Relapse Records, in all their benevolence and wisdom, vetoed a far less confrontational canvas instead. At this point the songtitles of the average Dying Fetus album sound more Suffocation than Suffocation themselves do.

So is “Wrong One To Fuck With” a full return to the olden days? No, cos that would alienate the fanbase Dying Fetus spent the better part of the last 15 years cultivating. Instead it does what every old band trying to recapture the flame of inspiration of their youthful days does. Which is incorporating visual aesthetics and songwriting decisions that have been absent for some time to appeal to the nostalgia aspect. Dying Fetus certainly do it a lot more gracefully than some of their contemporaries and while “Wrong One To Fuck With” might not be a classic, instant or otherwise, the trio’s performance is frighteningly tight enough. Dying Fetus, it appears, has matured. Gallagher’s formula hasn’t changed much, if at all – but the collaboration with Beasley and Williams has honed it almost to perfection. The focus might change from album to album but the basis of death metal always remains intact. This time around the focus squarely lies on the "old school" feeling.

The newfound loyalty to Steve Wright and WrightWay Studios in Baltimore has replaced their long-standing association with producer Steve Carr and Hit and Run Studios in Rockville. What exactly is stopping Gallagher from recording an album at Nighsky Studio in Waldorf with producer Ron Vento? It certainly wouldn’t hurt to try a different recording facility within the comfort of the wider Maryland region to spark their creativity and inspiration. There isn’t so much to say about “Wrong One To Fuck With” that we don’t already know or are familiar with. It’s Dying Fetus being and doing Dying Fetus. It’s not the great new chapter in the storied career of Dying Fetus but it’s testament to Dying Fetus’ persistence and longevity that they are still able to write material this impressive so deep into their well-documented career. “Wrong One To Fuck With” doesn’t fuck around at all. It kills, consistently, constantly.

Plot: priest, metalhead, and conman must stop the Apocalypse

The Day Of the Beast is probably the single most important Spanish horror movie of the nineties. The picture won 6 Goyas, including the one for best director, and breathed new life into a genre once so prominent in Iberia. With the fantastiques of Paul Naschy and Jesús Franco, the portentious gothic horrors of Léon Klimovsky, Amando de Ossorio and Miguel Iglesias as well as the occult erotic potboilers of José Ramón Larraz definitely being a thing of the past director Álex de la Iglesia rejuvenated Spanish horror with his second feature The Day Of the Beast, a horror-comedy reminiscent of Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead (1981) and Peter Jackson’s irreverent splatter horror debut feature Bad Taste (1987). As far as cultural importance goes it more or less was the Verónica (2017) of its day.

As the American horror landscape devolved into self-referential, self-reflexive, and meta-commentary, a brief genre resurgence occured in Spain. In the mid-to-late nineties directors as Alejandro Amenábar, Jaume Balagueró, and Álex de la Iglesia breathed new life into the once so flourishing Spanish horror industry. Each of these three men at some point early in their career tried their hand at the genre either in the form of slick dark thrillers or plain old-fashioned horror genre pieces. Amenábar directed the excellent Thesis (1996) and later the dreamy, surrealist Open Your Eyes (1997) (duly remade for the US market by Tom Cruise and Cameron Crowe as Vanilla Sky in 2001). Balagueró shot the atmospheric thriller The Nameless (1999), but wouldn’t find success until [Rec] (2007) almost a decade later. Álex de la Iglesia was more of a Spanish equivalent to early Peter Jackson, packing The Day Of the Beast with an equal amount of scares and laughs.

The director of The Day Of the Beast is Alejandro "Álex" de la Iglesia Mendoza, a screenwriter, producer, and erstwhile comic book artist. Prior to directing The Day Of the Beast, de la Iglesia helmed the subversive Acción Mutante (1993) that was produced by Pedro Almodóvar. Acción Mutante won two prizes at the Montréal Fantasia Festival, and three Goya's. The Day Of the Beast marked the first collaboration between de la Iglesia and producer Andrés Vicente Gómez. The Day Of the Beast is wonderful not only because it’s iconoclastic and irreverent much in the same way as Alucarda (1977) but, more importantly, because its mix of shocks and laughs serves a larger purpose; that of social satire. The Day Of the Beast has its share of slapstick comedy sequences but it never reverts into pure comedy. While it stays fairly lighthearted it always maintains an ominous, dark tone through out. Much in the fashion of earliest Peter Jackson, de la Iglesia uses humor to amplify the horror.

Basque Roman Catholic priest Father Ángel Berriartúa or simply Cura (Álex Angulo) has dedicated his life to deciphering Saint John's cryptic Book of Revelations at the Sanctuary of Aránzazu. The theologian has at long last discovered the numerical values denoting the date and place of birth of the Antichrist and the subsequent apocalypse. Which happens to be Christmas eve in Madrid, Spain. As he shares this knowledge with his monsignor sacerdote Anciano (Saturnino García) the latter is flattened by a falling cruciform. In a desperate, last bid attempt to come in the Dark Lord’s favor, Cura goes on a city-wide rampage commiting as much sin as possible, a quest that leaves him halfmad with terror and one that brings him to the attention of local media and law enforcement authorities. His deranged trek through Madrid brings him to the Carabanchel district where he meets dim-witted, loveable metalhead and record store owner José Maria (Santiago Segura), who offers him food and shelter because he appreciates the priest liking “heavy stuff”. José Maria hands Cura the demo tape of local metal act Satanika who, if rumors are to be believed, have affiliations with genuine Satanists. After visiting one of their shows Cura is convinced that José Maria is trustworthy ally and a partnership is formed. However, to summon the Dark Lord (and to stop the birth of the prophecized Antichrist) they require the help of a specialist in the occult.

José Maria suggests that Cavan (Armando De Razza), a public access TV medium and alleged connoisseur of and intendent to the secrets of the black arts, might be able to help on that end. The two break into the conman’s opulent apartment, scaring the living daylights out of Cavan’s supremely sluttish girlfriend Susana (Maria Grazia Cucinotta), and when negotiations breaks down they resort to plainly kidnapping the supposed medium. Cavan - the now battered and bloodied host of the paranormal talkshow “The Dark Side” - relays that in order to summon the Dark Lord they need to complete a ritual, one that is contingent on the pure, virgin blood. Cura immediately goes about securing said blood by attempting to talk José Maria’s saintly sister Mina (Nathalie Seseña) in voluntarily donating hers. With Mina not being open to the idea Cura is forced to kill her leading to a violent domestic dispute in which her matriarchal shotgun-toting mother Rosario (Terele Pávez) comes to her rescue, injuring and nearly killing the old padre in the process. The trio enact the ritual causing the Goatlord to appear, but the horned apparition leaves them no clues of the Satan spawn’s whereabouts.

After a daring escape from the Gran Vía (Capitol building, formerly the Carrión building) high-rise the trio is able to track down the unholy forces of evil to the Puerta de Europa (formerly known as the KIO Towers). After putting up a courageous fight José Maria is killed by the agents of Satán (Higinio Barbero). In a last desperate bid for survival Cura and Cavan, who since his mysterious disappearance has been replaced by the suave but entirely phony Nuevo Cavan (El Gran Wyoming), bundle their forces and face off against the lord with horns. Against impossible odds the duo somehow manages to succeed and soon find themselves as madly babbling drifters in the streets of Madrid while the rest of the world carries on with their mundane lives unaware of what has transpired.

The writing of Jorge Guerricaechevarría and de la Iglesia realizes how absurd the entire premise is, and amplify the whole by making every character a broad genre archetype. Cura is the priest in a crisis of faith who discovers the impending apocalypse. José Maria is a dim-witted death metal enthusiast (and record store owner) who throws shoplifters face-first through glass. Rosario, his mother, is the racist native who’d want all undesirables to stay at her pensione so she could blow them away with her rifle. Cavan is an alleged medium, who pretty much admits he’s a conman, but who engages in exorcisms and writes book on the occult and paranormal because that’s what his audience wants and who is he not to indulge them? Cavan’s girlfriend Susana serves no other purpose than to bounce around in skimpy lingerie and occassionally act as a damsel-in-distress when the script calls for one. Maria Grazia Cucinotta oddly reminds of a mid-to-late 1980s Lina Romay with her white wig. The three leads play off each other wonderfully. Cura is a babbling madman on a quest that nobody really understands, José Maria is a kind-hearted soul in a bulky physique that responds with “heavy” every time their situation gets worse, and Cavan acts a lone voice of reason that keeps both men holding on to what little remains of their sanity. In the end Cura and Cavan realize that the world has already gone to hell as nobody even has the slightest clue of the perilous journey they went through to prevent the apocalypse.

The cast of The Day Of the Beast were, for the most part, carryovers from de la Iglesia’s Acción Mutante (1993) or fresh new faces. Álex Angulo, Saturnino Garcia, and Santiago Segura all were in de la Iglesia’s debut feature with Angula scoring his most remembered role in the series Periodistas (1998). Segura turned up in the mid-90s Jess Franco debacle Killer Barbys (1996) alongside an aging Mariangela Giordano, but would redeem himself with de la Iglesia’s Perdita Durango (1997) and reinvent himself as a Hollywood darling in the new millennium with bit parts in Blade II (2002), Beyond Re-Animator (2003), Guillermo del Toro’s comic book adaptation Hellboy (2004), Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008), Pacific Rim (2013), and the Torrente franchise (1998-2004). Maria Grazia Cucinotta was a former model and one of several curvaceous Mediterranean actresses (Monica Belucci and Penelope Cruz being the two most important other competitors at the time) tipped for international superstardom. The Day Of the Beast, along with a role in the domestic drama The Postman (1994), as well as a guest spot on the popular HBO series The Sopranos and a cameo in the Bond vehicle The World Is Not Enough (1999), set her on the road to superstardom. As these things go voluptuous Cucinotta has done little of note in the cinematic world since.

Needless to say The Day Of the Beast was probably the most important Spanish horror movie in 1995, back when the once so glorious genre had all dried up in the country. At various points it channels the spirit of some of the old masters and injects it with a much-needed boost of youthful energy and irreverence that, at its best, reminds of a young Peter Jackson. Few directors can manage to combine such contrasting (not to mention conflicting) genres as slapstick comedy, atmospheric horror and human drama without doing concessions to either. The Day Of the Beast knows what it is, and what it wants to be, and its enduring longevity comes from not only from its classic plot but that it never forgets that it is a horror production. True to its time it’s not nearly as thick on that earthen Mediterranean atmosphere of old and its rather demure on all fronts – more importantly, however, is that de la Iglesia paid homage to the old Iberian horror masters without ever coming across as rustic or plain old-fashioned. The Day Of the Beast was as slick and modern as they came in 1995, but it always remained vintage at heart.