In typical powerviolence fashion, Jarhead Fertilizer have remained surprisingly relevant considering they’ve only dropped two EPs and a split. 2015’s Opiate Conquest stands as one of the genre’s finest offerings, with frenetic chaos and a streetwise menace to contend with Spazz and Capitalist Casualties… and then, silence. Five years later finds Jarhead Fertilizer finally ready to drop their debut LP. While arguably still powerviolence aesthetically, Product of My Environment centers on the ugliest, most primitive aspects of death metal.
This isn’t music for gear nerds and shredders, having more in common with goregrind than death metal’s more proficient offshoots. The brief “Intro” gives off that raw grind vibe with its freeform noise, but the title track presents the rest of the album’s offerings: absurdly guttural vocals and disgustingly distorted guitars/bass, driven by barbaric drumming. It’s dirty, dangerous, and gets straight to the point. In fact, only this cut and closer “Life is Prison” break the three-minute mark. Jarhead Fertilizer leave no room for pleasantries and goes straight for the jugular with as much ruthless aggression as possible.
There’s a charming (as this music can get) simplicity to this album. Single “Baptized by Fire” might be one minute long, but it’s the kind of minute that begs to turn into 10 with repeat listens. Those chaotic “chug, chug, TREMOLO” riffs are too much good, violent fun to resist. There’s even a hardcore-ish groove in “Drowned in Your Blood” to drive this sentiment home. For people wired to respond to no-nonsense half-time beats and gnarly riffs—this song’s beefy, tough-as-nails delivery is a no-brainer.
The bare-bones rage of Product of My Environment might appeal to fans of Nails, if they’re okay with replacing the Swedish death metal with East Coast brutal death. “Trials and Tribulations” and “Paranoia Seeping” may as well be 15-minutes long each, considering how much punishment they dole out. The former’s chunky chugs and pinch harmonics mesh nicely with some hammer-on pull-offs and tremolo lines, but Jarhead Fertilizer embody their powerviolence roots by never sticking with any feel for too long. There’s hardly enough time to register the latter cut's filthy bass tone before the song gets swept into a deathgrind tornado—and that’s before a curb-stomping slam finishes things off.
Also in line with powerviolence, this album features some well-chosen spoken-word samples of shrewd straight-talking. These are welcome setting-setters, considering the lyrics are completely unintelligible through those pitch-shifted gurgles. Lines like the “Silence the Narc” opening, “You don’t make up for your sins in church/ You do it in the streets/ You do it at home/ The rest is bullshit and you know it,” do a lot to contextualize the unrelenting intensity. If this death metal for the streets, then the streets of Jarhead Fertilizer are mean and unforgiving.
It’s worth emphasizing the blunt force trauma of this album. It’s impossible to hear the massive, evolving grooves of “An End to Your Sacred World” without grimacing, and even the down-tempo industrial-tinged interlude of “Agony Churning” has an oppressive weight to it. For all this brazen power, Jarhead Fertilizer bring memorability and atmosphere to match their mission to bash out as many brains in 27 minutes. Granted, only connoisseurs of East Coast death metal could really differentiate the bomb-blasting berserker charges and life-ending slams of “Embedded in Your Mind" from the rest of the album. The fact remains, navigating the stampede does reveal solid songwriting.
While top-tier brutal death metal in sound, “Life is Prison” epitomizes Jarhead Fertilizer’s powerviolence aesthetic as it jerks listeners around with gleeful mayhem. Whether it be hardcore-inspired beatdowns, obliterating grindcore, or tried-and-true slams, fans of hard-hitting extreme metal will surely smile through each punch these guys throw. It’s been worth the wait to hear the evolution of Jarhead Fertilizer. Product of My Environment is the kick in the teeth the extreme metal underground needs in 2021.