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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.

Only a handful of death metal bands are as solid and reliable as Incantation, and even fewer can actually manage to get better in their old age. The Johnstown, Pennsylvania stalwarts experienced a period of fatigue and something of a career slump with 2006’s “Primordial Domination” and 2012’s rather colorless “Vanquish In Vengeance”. Since “Dirges Of Elysium” John McEntee and his cohorts have returned with renewed vigor and purpose. Like a good wine Incantation only gets fiercer and deadlier as the years pass. Production has practically since forever been Incantation’s bane, but “Profane Nexus” is probably the crispiest the band has yet sounded. “Profane Nexus”, the first Incantation record on Relapse since 2000’s quasi-technical “The Infernal Storm”, is the best they have done since then.

That the Incantation of today is an entirely different beast than that of its classic repertoire should be evident to anybody who has been paying the slightest bit of attention. Arguably since “The Infernal Storm” and 2002’s “Blasphemy” the churning riff maelstroms that were the bread-and-butter of their old repertoire have been relegated to the past and traded in for a simpler, less structurally dense direction that is no less effective. Fellow Americans Immolation have followed a similar career trajectory. McEntee has grown more than comfortable in his role as frontman and drummer Kyle Severn is one of the genre’s perennially underappreciated heroes, one who places feeling, percussive minimalism and atmosphere over showmanship and blinding speeds. Over the last two records bass guitarist Chuck Sherwood has proven vital to Incantation’s newfound vitality and conceptual reinvention. Sherwood’s funky finger style bass playing invokes memories of fallen comrade Joe Lombard and prior to that, Robert Yench. Since “Vanquish in Vengeance” Sherwood has proven a prolific songsmith and lyricist; and his contributions complement McEntee’s tried-and-true death metal formula.

Over the last couple of years Incantation has embraced the general occult next to their staple themes of heresy and blasphemy. With lyrics primarily penned by Sherwood and McEntee “Profane Nexus” concerns more than the band’s patented hatred for organized religion, Christianity in particular. “Profane Nexus” - like “Dirges Of Elysium” before it – draws heavily from mythology and antiquity, specifically the Arabian, Aztec, Brittonic, Greek, and Sumerian pantheons. ‘Rites of the Locust’ concerns the Biblical plagues of Egypt from the Arabic perspective. ‘Xipe Totec’, the shortest Incantation song ever, deals with the titular Aztec deity of life-death-rebirth whose name means "Our Lord the Flayed One”. Human sacrifices were often made in his honor, and he was believed to wear flayed human skin of those that were slain. ‘Horns Of Gefrin’ is about the ancient village of Gefrin (modern day Yeavering in England), or 'hill of the goats', where in 627 Bishop Paulinus of York spent 36 days in the royal vill Adgefrin preaching and baptising converts in the river Glen. ‘Omens to the Altar of Onyx’ concerns the ancient Samnites who worshipped the goddess Mephitis in the volcanic crater Avernus, believed to be the portal to the underworld, in central and south Italy in pre-Roman times. It’s good to see a band as old and experienced as Incantation embrace new engrossing historical subject matter this late into their storied career.

Also not unimportant is the presence of lead guitarist Sonny Lombardozzi who has injected the band with a sense of finesse and musicality that was absent in its 2006-2012 career slump. Lombardozzi sessioned on “Dirges Of Elysium” but was thankfully made a full member with this release. With Sherwood and Lombardozzi in tow Incantation is at its most potent since “The Infernal Storm”. ‘Incorporeal Despair’ is probably the gloomiest and doomiest Incantation has sounded in a very long time. Whatever infractions Incantation might be guilty of in the past “Profane Nexus” is a commendable showing for a band now onto its third decade. Incantation has never strayed too far, or at all, from its original sound and “Profane Nexus” is no different. Few bands are as consistent and reliable as Incantation. Incantation is still playing like it is 1992 and the secret to their longevity is that they never experienced any drastic stylistic shifts despite their gigantic turnover in personnel. Incantation after all is one of the few original USDM bands that never split and that has kept releasing albums in a fairly steady manner even when the scene and public opinion was indifferent to them.

Is “Profane Nexus” a new classic-to-be or has it Incantation at long last restoring itself to its former glory? No, far from it in fact. It has been well over a decade and a a half since the Pennsylvanians have released anything resembling a genre classic. Like any band of their stature (Malevolent Creation and Cannibal Corpse come to mind) they have released a number of albums that were far from essential. Since “Blasphemy” Incantation has frequently missed the mark and they became the subject of imitation with the so-called cavernous death metal movement in 2006-2008 through bands like Dominus Xul, Darkness Eternal, Necros Christos, Portal, Dead Congregation, Blaspherian, Father Befouled, Impetuous Ritual, Vasaeleth, Irkallian Oracle, Ekpyrosis as well as Chilean acts Demonic Rage and Abominatio.

“Profane Nexus” changes nothing substantial about the modern modus operandi of Incantation. It is a contemporary Incantation recording, perhaps one of their most pristinely produced at that. It's yet another iteration of 2002’s “Blasphemy”. Is it vital and mandatory to any collection? Far from it. It's solid, reliable and sounds exactly like you think it will. Is that bad in and of itself? No. Were early Incantation records more commanding, far more morbid in their destitution and frequently darker than “Profane Nexus”? Surely, but McEntee thankfully never committed the same sins as fellow death metal originals Deicide, Morbid Angel and Obituary.