There’s nothing like starting a cold, rainy week with some brutal, US death metal and Fetid Zombie perfectly fit the bill. Formed by Mark Riddick, an artist who has long roamed the underground, Fetid Zombie deal in the epic in a manner that few death metal artists would dare approach, and ‘Epicedia’ offers up just four songs despite its thirty-five minute run time. Featuring guest contributions from a number of renowned musicians including Ralf Hauber (Revel in flesh), Yusef Wallace (Rude), Jamie Whyte (Beyond mortal dreams), Josh Fleischer (Svierg), Nunsslutgoat (Goat Holocaust), Toby Knapp (Where evil follows), Nick Walker (Bane of bedlam) and Dawn Desiree (ex-Rain Fell within), the album contribution list reads like a who’s who of death metal and, with such a list of artists, you know you’re in for something special with Epicedia’.
Opening with the thunderous, guttural brutality of ‘Lowered belief’, the track starts incredibly raw and potent. It’s classic death metal, as bloody as a street fight and yet, there’s a fear that the track won’t sustain its 9-minute run time. However, as the track progresses, so it roves through quiet passages, deftly delivered solos, harmonised leads and more, the band conjuring up an impressively dense atmosphere that stands good on the promise of the song’s opening without simply repeating it ad nauseam. The sense of dynamic here is truly impressive and the song reaches its conclusion all too quickly. Heading back into blackened death metal territory, ‘Devour the virtuous’ is a swirling miasma of toxic riffing and ferocious blast beats, the admirably raw production capturing the vital essence of a live band whilst still allowing the more ethereal keyboard elements room to breathe. Toby Knapp’s guitar work here is awesome (as it is throughout the album) but perhaps more so are the jazz-infused bass runs that sit close under the surface of the track, always dragging the music in more progressive directions. Nonetheless, ‘Devour the virtuous’ is a considerably heavier outing than the opening track and it has a dark, dank atmosphere that only occasionally allows the light of Dawn Desiree’s vocals to permeate.
The second half of the album kicks off with the subtle atmospheric keyboard washes of ‘Devour the innocent’. Once again, that sense of the epic is built around the band’s innate grasp of dynamic and their steadfast refusal to simply batter the audience into submission. With Dawn’s seraphic vocal drifting through the ether, it is the tolling of a great bell that announces the arrival of a torrential riff and demonic vocals and once again the listener is plunged headlong into a Dante-esque inferno where rapid-fire riffs and tortured growls sear the air. Once again, it’s not all hellfire and damnation, and a mid-section shimmers with the post-punk ambience of early Cure, all reverb-drenched guitar and sinister synths, before the brimstone returns, all the more powerful for the brief respite allowed the listener. The album concludes with the gargantuan ‘if the dead could speak’, a ten-minute broadside that neatly encapsulates the grand ambition that underpins the whole album. Rooted in classic metal, strains of Iron Maiden and Priest can be found in the expanded DNA of the riffs whilst the hell-spawned vocals reek of sulphur. Once again it’s a multi-tiered trek through the wide hallways of extremity and yet, for all its brutality, there’s an innovation here that is truly inspiring.
Over the course of just four tracks, Fetid Zombie dig deep to deliver one of the year’s most impressive extreme releases. With accolades from just about everywhere, this is one of those rare albums that entirely justifies the hype. For all the fire and fury, there’s a depth and progression here that will have you returning to the album time and again. Darkly melodic, ‘Epicedia’ is a masterpiece that will haunt your dreams and is essential listening for any extreme metal fan. 10