Considering that this is the first installment of whatever this column is going to end up being, I'd like to make something clear right from the start: I will never lie to you, Metal Injection readers.
Hand on heart, I will only ever be real with you. It's all I can do because I'm too stupid to lie and too aw-shucks-nice to deceive. Whenever I'm asked what made me want to front a death metal band, my answer has almost always been "because I have no actual marketable skills" – and that's no lie, brother. I haven't been proficient at basically anything else in this life besides making fart sounds into a microphone. I say "basically," however, because there is one other thing I'm halfway decent at, which is recommending esoteric metal albums to strangers and captive audiences. So, in that grand spirit of "not lying" and "raving about incredibly niche music," let's kick this column off with an unquestionable truth: Intestine Baalism's An Anatomy of the Beast is a fucking amazing record.
Now, if you read that band name and instantly assumed we were going to be discussing some uber-techincal, wanky death metal made by a bunch of bald, pouting Eastern Europeans, I can't blame you. But that couldn't be farther from the truth. Intestine Baalism is a Japanese band who trades in the absolute best kind of melodeath possible, which is the kind that places The Riff head and shoulders above everything else. This is melodic death metal largely in the Slaughter of the Soul and Heartwork tradition but with a unique ferocity in its speed and delivery that occasionally hearkens back to underrated New York Death Metal gems like Morpheus Descends. The infectious catchiness of the riffs is what initially grabs your attention, but it's what Intestine Baalism does with those riffs, and the relentless pace at which they bludgeon you with them, that demands that you listen.
The title track is a perfect example of what makes this band, and this album specifically, so special. A brief drum fill and bass slide drop us right into an intro riff that honestly wouldn't sound that out of place on an early Hammerfall record if it was just sped up a couple BPM. Then just as the band is fully locking into the groove, we drop out into an unmistakably SweDeath™ trem riff and gallop. And the riffs (basically all of which are standouts on their own) just keep coming one after the other until around the 3 minute mark, when guitarists Seiji Kakuzaki and Atsushi Miyata glide effortlessly into a little harmonized solo/lead section that's, dare I say…beautiful? It's a gorgeously mournful passage that breaks up the frantic pace of the track just enough for you to screw your head back on before the band picks the pace back up and brings it all home with a very '80s sounding "Big Rock Ending." And then the next song starts with yet another killer riff. Never a wasted moment with this band.
The whole album is like this – a madman's tapestry of feral riffing, soaring leads and eye-popping solos that's assembled with such care and conviction that you never once question their methods. How could you? In the world of melodic death metal, or really just death metal as a whole, there hasn't really been another band that's come close to capturing whatever lightning-in-a-bottle magic Intestine Baalism was able to harness on An Anatomy of the Beast (and its follow-up Banquet in the Darkness as well, but I need subject matter for future editions of this column so that's going to have to wait). They're a band that requires you to let go and expect the unexpected, and if you place your trust in them, they reward you with a death metal experience you won't find anywhere else.