What does excess sound like? Musically speaking, the metal bands that we might deem "excessive" most likely exist primarily in the theory-savvy, million-sweeps-per-second category that tech-death giants like Archspire and Decrepit Birth occupy.
Does musical excess always need to sound quite so busy, though? What if the concept of excess exists on a pendulum rather than a graph, and the decision to create a lot with your music can just as easily be achieved with the simplest possible actions? This is all just a very laborious and obnoxious way to say that metal bands don't need to be Olympic level shredders to make a big musical statement, and for my money no band in recent memory proves this theory more than Rotted does.
Some personal context before we dive any deeper: the first time I heard Rotted was the summer of 2019. My band Undeath had been in its protozoic existence for a little less than a year and we were gearing up to release our second demo, Sentient Autolysis, which would turn out to be a pivotal release in the trajectory of our band. None of us had any inkling of what was just beyond the horizon for us at that point, however – we were all swept up in what was happening all around us in the realm of death metal.
Bands were eschewing polished technicality for a sort of back-to-basics primitivism, fittingly coined "Caveman Death Metal" by a rising Californian label called Maggot Stomp (and, as so many have forgotten, "Parking Lot Death Metal" by Encoffinized, one of the earliest Maggot Stomp bands). As longtime fans of death metal that felt more blue collar than music school, we were intoxicated by the amazing new releases that seemed to be dropping every day. Mortal Wound's Forms of Unreasoning Fear, Gutless' Mass Extinction and Malignant Altar's Retribution of Jealous Gods received non-stop adulation in our group chat. Simply put, while it's always a good time to be a death metal fan, this was a particularly golden era.
Out of all those fantastic demos and Eps that soundtracked innumerable drunken evenings, Rotted's Dying to Rot was the one we came back to the most.
It's difficult for me to listen to it through nice headphones these days because I'm so used to hearing it absolutely abusive Kyle's stock Astrovan speakers to the point that they sounded like they were going to rattle out of the frame. There is no pretense to be found on Dying to Rot – no conceptual barrier to entry or critical bona fides required to appreciate what's happening across the demo's 20-minute runtime. The lead riff on opener "Wounds" sounds like the first thing your average death metal enthusiast would attempt to play after drinking ten Hamms and picking up a guitar for the very first time. When it runs its course and drops into what sounds like a two-step riff submerged in quicksand, it's hard not to crack a shit-eating grin at the sheer majesty of it all. This is excess inverted: the death metal tool box tipped over, spilled onto the carpet and displayed in all its crude, mischievous glory.
My focusing on the rudimentary nature of Dying to Rot isn't meant to take away from the songwriting chops on display here. Mastermind Dylan Jones knows exactly what he's doing here and wastes absolutely no time accomplishing it, which is a feat in and of itself when you consider death metal's unfortunately common fixation on taking forever to get to the point. The first half-time riff on "Liquefied" segues perfectly into a bass break that sounds like TV static before launching seamlessly into yet another pit activator. It's inspiring stuff from a true death metal craftsman and should be appreciated as such.
If this demo somehow missed your ears during the initial surge of new American death metal bands, do yourself a favor and check it out ASAP. You won't be disappointed.