"Slam" legends Dying Fetus have returned with an album heavier than an iron block upon which soft, warm metal is hammered into desired shapes. Or even an anvil. The fact that Dying Fetus is currently a trio is fascinating. The music on Descend Into Depravity is fierce and full-bodied, a testament to frontman John Gallagher's stellar songwriting. He may never top Destroy the Opposition (one of the most important death metal releases of all time), but he'll fucking die trying.

2007's War of Attrition was an augury of formidable musicianship to come. I liked that record a lot. In fact, I was worried that DID would be anticlimactic. As soon as I pressed play, my fears were extinguished. The drumming is spastic, the riffs are lean (gotta love those pinch harmonics), the energy is phrenetic, and the vocals...fuck, the vocals. I'm not sure how he does it, but Gallagher has the most consistent gurgle on the planet. Maddened and impossibly deep, his roar decussates through every track with the courtesy of a knife to the gut.

For the most part, the album is business as usual for Dying Fetus. However, we do get a couple of nice curveballs towards the end of the olfactive unrest. "At What Expense?" features guitar harmonies that sound like they could have been written by Chuck Schuldiner. A tasteful solo follows. "Ethos of Coercion" contains melodic runs that you wouldn't normally hear on a Dying Fetus record. Those are probably my two favorite tracks, though I'm quite fond of "Shepherd's Commandmennt," "Hopeless Insurrection," and the brutal title track.

Those who stopped paying attention after to Dying Fetus after Stop at Nothing (an admittedly mediocre offering) are missing out. Gallagher is still in his prime as a musician and as a lyricist. Line-up changes be damned, this is one band that deserves to be inducted into the Heavy Metal Hall of Fame, an institution that only exists in my head.

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