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.