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The second Decrepit Birth record is where the band finally decided to capitalize on the instrumental skill of its (now solidified) membership. Where the preceding album was a lovenote to Deeds Of Flesh and “Despise the Sun” era Suffocation; here lead guitarist Matt Sotelo plundered the catalog of Atheist, Cemetery, Death, latter day Pestilence and Watchtower in what can be charitably called one of the biggest about-face turns in death metal in recent memory. Not only is “Diminishing Between Worlds” more musical and technical than “…And Time Begins” – it is also the first where the band actually writes recognizable songs. Marred in the mastering process with a too low volume (which was duly rectified in later pressings) it became a breakthrough record for the band.  After the album’s promotional campaign Decrepit Birth would depart from Unique Leader to sign with German conglomerate Nuclear Blast Records, along with a host of other similar bands.

decrepit_birthDecrepit Birth’s transformation into a more musically refined and technically accomplished outfit was a welcome change from the soulless drab of its unremarkable debut. At least in part “Diminishing Between Worlds” initiated a movement within the California scene that had previously plain brutal (and uninteresting at that) death metal acts following in its footsteps in surprising numbers. Even established institutions as Deeds Of Flesh, Severed Savior and Vile were moving away from their patented sounds to pick up on the success of this album. Most notable from the debut is the increased influence from the likes of formative technical (death) metal acts Atheist, Death, post-“Consuming Impulse” Pestilence, Theory In Practice and Watchtower. For the first time Sotelo decided to play leads and solos, something he categorically refused to do on “…And Time Begins”. The songs are much more deliberately paced, and the band even attempts to add atmosphere to some of the more ambitious songs. That some of the songs are filled to the brim with ideas was to be expected, as was the fact that the execution is sometimes lacking. At least the band was attempting to infuse some life into the established (and by this point, tired and banal) California death metal sound.

It wouldn’t be too far off to say that “Diminishing Between Worlds” has Decrepit Birth, or composer Matt Sotelo at least, writing actual songs for the first time in his career – and not mere collections of random riffs and seemingly endless blasts. All these songs have a recognizable beginning, middle and end, which is a commendable evolution from the band’s unspectacular debut from a few years prior. The greater prominence and reliance on leads/solos allows for more open compositions, and even the bass guitar has become more important in the overall scope of things. Decrepit Birth is still not an “innovative” or “progressive” band by any stretch of the imagination, as they just moved from one trough to another – and don’t exactly hide from which bands they culled their inspiration this time around. If this sounds like “Testimony Of the Ancients”, “Nespithe” and “Individual Thought Patterns” played ten times faster, that’s exactly what it is. For the first time the band also attempted instrumentals with the tranquil ‘The Enigmatic Form’ and the forgettable outro ‘The Morpheus Oracle’. The former sounds like something off Pestilence’s experimental “Spheres” album, while the latter sounds like one of those latter day Morbid Angel interludes. Decrepit Birth however never get lost in its technicality and instrumental skill side-stepping the rake that has come to define Brain Drill, that other famously technical California death metal band, that they forget to write songs. “Diminishing Between Worlds” is an interesting exploration of the more sophisticated side of the death metal genre, and while modern in construction it at least remembers the tropes and conventions of the classic death metal era that preceded it.

Not all aspects of the band have undergone the same steep transformation. Vocally there is no evolution to speak of. Bill Robinson is still as bog standard and uninteresting as modern day death metal singers come. He is very much reminiscent of Rich Lipscomb (Fleshgrind) that way, although he is tonally closer to Matti Way. Robinson does enunciate better than most of his peers, but his performance reeks of stagnation. Both bass guitarist Derek Boyer and studio musician Tim Yeung had moved on since the debut, and they were replaced by members of local upstarts Odious Mortem later down the the line. Introduced on this record is drummer K.C. Howard, and his debut is as smooth as one could imagine. For the session Sotelo recorded all the bass guitar parts in the studio, while Joel Horner would handle the instrument in the live arena. All three tracks of the “2006 promo” are re-recorded here, along with a fairly redundant retake of the “…And Time Begins” title track, otherwise the record is entirely composed of new material. Once past the re-recorded ‘…And Time Begins’ the album and band regress back to a more primal state, which is surprising considering how musical the first half of the album was. The exception to this being ‘Essence Of Creation’ which merges both sounds flawlessly. In fact ‘Essence Of Creation’ is one of the greatest tracks on this outing, along with ‘Reflection Of Emotions’ and ‘Through Alchemy Bound Eternal’.

The hyperbolic fan reaction was understandable as California death metal never was the most interesting variation of the genre, but to call Decrepit Birth “progressive” and “innovative” is just intellectually dishonest. It should be expected that bands get better and more musical as they get older, it shouldn’t be treated as some unexpected rarity. As such “Diminishing Between Worlds” is a transitional record, and has the band finding its creative voice after a meddling debut. It is one of the better modern day death metal records, and it is not stifled by either a sterile production or a too singleminded focus. While it was pivotal in getting the tired and tiring California death metal sound out of a self-imposed creative rut, the record isn’t nearly the genre-defining masterpiece it is made out to be. No. The foundation of this album was laid by truly adventurous albums from veritable progressive (death) metal units as Atheist, Cynic, latter-day Death, Pestilence, Theory In Practice and Watchtower. Decrepit Birth wrapped all these various influences in a contemporary package, and presented the goods with a crunchy modern sheen. Still, it is hardly the thing to call them progressive for. That’s just being competent, and conscious of the genre’s roots and history. Nothing more, nothing less.

“Diminishing Between Worlds” was mostly a home-recorded affair, much like the band’s 2003 debut. Matt Sotelo laid down rhythm/lead guitars, bass guitar, keyboards and vocals at his own Legion Studio. Drums were recorded at Castle Ultimate Studios with Zack Ohren, who also mixed and mastered the album. For the second time around a Dan Seagrave artwork was commissioned, and like the prior album it was released through California death metal specialist label Unique Leader Records. For the most part it is the end of an era for band and label alike, as Decrepit Birth would sign with major label Nuclear Blast Records, and Unique Leader was just a few years away from transforming into the populist deathcore-centric imprint they are today. “Diminishing Between Worlds” is the only record of its kind in terms of membership, as the Odious Mortem members would all take their leave around 2010-2011 in an exodus reminiscent of mid-era Dying Fetus, or 90s era Malevolent Creation. The duo of Sotelo and Robinson persisted, and eventually wrote a third record for their new label home.

The transition into more melodic and technical territory is handled well, and Decrepit Birth finally started living up to its potential through it. Still all of that doesn’t change that the album is unjustly lavished in hyperbolic praise. Sure, the album is leagues above the troglodyte debut, and vastly better than most of Unique Leader was putting on the market at the time, but records by Death, Pestilence and Theory In Practice that inspired this recording were widely available at the time of this album’s release. Progressive this band never was, just competent and cognizant of the technical (death) metal genre’s formative acts. The transformation Decrepit Birth has gone through is admirable to say the least – but records like these were produced during the 90s as well, which is a fact a lot of fans selectively choose to ignore. The album lasts a quarter of an hour, which is a good fifteen minutes longer than the debut (which barely lasted 30 minutes), and the songs are worked out to a more satisfactory degree. All of this makes it the better Decrepit Birth album, but still not the progressive death metal masterpiece the fandom and media make it out to be. It is competent and well-played, but hardly revolutionary.

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There never has been such a waste of talent as on the debut of California death metal act Decrepit Birth. Recorded as a trio at the band’s home studio in Santa Cruz and including studio drumming by the noted Tim Yeung (who cut his teeth with studio work for Hate Eternal and Aurora Borealis) “…And Time Begins” merely scratched the surface of what founder/guitarist Matt Sotelo would later present. Bill Robinson is an unremarkable vocalist in every meaning of the word, and a record as redundant as  “…And Time Begins” does not help his case at all. The performance of bass guitarist Derek Boyer on this record would be instrumental in him being hired by reformed New York death metal stalwarts Suffocation. While far from terrible, the first Decrepit Birth record is one of squandered opportunities, and a waste of the talented cast involved in its creation. This record should have been much better than it is. This shouldn’t have been another soulless and unnecessary Deeds Of Flesh knockoff. Sadly, it is just that and nothing more.

entrevistadecrepitbirth01It’s hard to tell any of these songs apart, except for signature song ‘Shroud Of Impurity’ which either sounds like “Inbreeding the Anthropophagi” Deeds Of Flesh or “Conquering the Throne” Hate Eternal at various points. ‘Concepting the Era’ sounds slightly more diverse in terms of pacing and structure compared to the rest of the songs. That the band refuses to play any leads/solos is, of course, detrimental to these songs as they would have been much more easily to recollect with an identifier, or two. One but last track ‘Of Genocide’ is different from the rest of the album. It is much slower and sounds a lot like “Blessed Are the Sick” Morbid Angel instead of the rampant Suffocation and Deeds Of Flesh worship on display on the remainder of the album. The similarities with Deeds Of Flesh track ‘A Violent God’ are readily apparent. This is about any and all subtlety you’ll encounter on this particular outing. The title track is a 9 minute exercise that is far better and more ambitious than a good number of these other songs combined. Why the rest of the album wasn’t written in this manner is a question for the ages. For the most part in its quest for brutality Decrepit Birth forgot to write songs.

Bill Robinson tries his best to sound like Disgorge vocalist Matti Way. There are a couple of instances where his grunts are overlaid with screams, but its usage isn’t as prominent with this band as with Deeds Of Flesh (a band that lifted that aspect themselves from Deicide). Thankfully, Robinson enunciates far better than the eternally indecipherable Way. In terms of power Robinson is similar to Fleshgrind frontman Rich Lipscomb. The bass guitar can thankfully be heard on “…And Time Begins” with Derek Boyer providing some fine licks to go with the limited material. There are bass breaks in ‘Prelude To the Apocalypse’ and ‘Condemned to Nothingness’, but their appearance is too brief to be of any real merit. While the bass guitar itself is thick and oozing its clinical modern production eschews the instrument’s bottom end heaviness for a lighter tone. Perhaps the band would have benefited from a heavier tone similar to Cannibal Corpse fixture Alex Webster, or even Jan-Chris de Koeijer’s concrete tone on Gorefest’s third album “Erase”.

At least Decrepit Birth, or main composer Matt Sotelo, was wise enough to go for somewhat interesting lyrics. Avoiding the usual and tired subject matter such as horror, blasphemy and gore, the band adopted a broad science-fiction concept about the universe, astral phenomena and the conception of time and mankind. The lyrics are actually quite refined, and reminiscent of early Suffocation. The album is important in that after its release in 2003 suddenly death metal bands all over California (and the US as a whole) who had previously sung about horror, perversion and gore started adopting science fiction lyrics, and adapting themselves accordingly. The concept would be explored in greater detail on the band’s second album “Diminishing Between Worlds” but at least some degree of thought and consideration was put into them. Unfortunately do the somewhat interesting lyrics not compensate for the redundancy of the music present on the disc.  One is hardpressed to call these sci-fi lyrics original, as Nocturnus and Demilich were already doing such a thing in the early 90s. In 2003 there were better releases to procure, such as Mithras’ “Worlds Beyond the Veil”, Diabolic’s “Infinity Through Purification” or Nile’s “In Their Darkened Shrines” that arrived the year before.

As everybody was using digital art Decrepit Birth made a wise choice in commissioning the Dan Seagrave art that adorns the record. This in turn led to renewed interest in his repertoire as a classic death metal artist. The album was mixed and mastered at Imperial Mastering by Colin Davis (of the band Vile). On the whole “…And Time Begins” is a competent death metal album that gets by on the grace of its unrepentant brutality, which is a detriment for the exact same reason. This was a mere lovenote to Decrepit Birth’s inspirations, and not a true display of their musicality and skill. The fact is that the band plays far below its skill level on this album. The fact that it’s so painfully average and unremarkable makes one question how the band ever got as far as they did. “…And Time Begins” is a typical early 2000s Unique Leader Records release, meaning that it was competent in what it intended to do, but lacked that spark to set it apart from the hundreds of other bands attempting a similar thing the world over. It’s only the Dan Seagrave art that truly set its apart from the Jon Zig fronted releases of the day. In all “…And Time Begins” is a good record in spirit, but not one to go down in the annals of extreme metal history as mandatory or vital. It is an album marked by a dire waste of talent and squandered opportunities. Decrepit Birth was to reveal its renewed sense of purpose and direction only half a decade later with their much better second album.