One-man death metal is a seemingly odd prospect: the genre is so wed to the idea of 4-5 guys hunched over their instruments, doing their thing. But it does make some sense. Death metal’s technicality requires a ton of practice time to get your chops up to snuff, and not every drummer is Kevin Talley, not every guitarist Erik Rutan, etc., so it could be argued that it’s best to rely on one’s self for the most desirable results. Granted, it’s not as prevalent as it is in black metal — where it can seem like 64% of all of it is made by one-man projects — but it’s an interesting subset. And these guys actually play out from time to time, so it’s not all jacking off and hoping somebody notices. The goals are the same as with most death metal bands, just with 80% fewer guys.

Granted, the shows aren’t always riveting, as I learned with Bloodsoaked. When I saw them (er, him) at New England Deathfest two years ago, I was struck by how utterly fucking boring it was (in contrast, Putrid Pile — another notable one-man act — managed to put on a surprisingly lively show despite being just a nerdy looking dude in a Devourment hat and a drum machine). And when I heard about their/his latest album — The Death of Hope— the name stuck with me. And while I may have been underwhelmed with Bloodsoaked live, on record, they’re fucking magnificent. It’s death metal for guys who would wear an Obituary long-sleeve and clip-on tie to their sister’s wedding: the dirty, technical yet straightforward stuff. Nothing you haven’t already heard, but certainly the type of stuff that you can never hear enough of. Thirty-one minutes of claustrophobic, atonal riffs and last-breath-from-a-corpse’s-mouth vocals, all of it great.

Whereas one-man black metal is built out of inconsistencies and relies on shreds of warped melody or shards of riffs to become remotely palatable, one-man death metal is the inverse: with the genre’s penchant for surgically precise riffs (well, unless you’re Incantation, Portal, Gorguts, or bands that sound like them) backed by a perfect-by-design drum machine, the best solo death metal acts show fascinating plumes of humanity among the rigidity of their surroundings. With Bloodsoaked, there’s an irresistible looseness. Don’t get me wrong, The Death of Hope is just as brutal as its album cover. But it’s also a lot of fucking fun. Chairman of the Board Peter Hasslebrack has clearly spent the vast majority of his life listening to death metal, and his knowledge of riffcraft and songwriting for it is enviable. If they actually paid guys for this sort of thing, he could make an honest living reassembling Cannibal Corpse riffs (thus putting Six Feet Under out of a job).

And while it runs the same bases dozens upon dozens of other fully-formed bands have, there’s a freshness in the appreciation of it. If anything, Bloodsoaked is an illustration of one man’s relationship with death metal. And in that regard, it’s immensely personal. From sinister Morbid Angel slowness to Effigy of the Forgotten-era Suffocation grooves and sinewy tech riffs, it’s not just regurgitating; it’s savoring. And one could argue it’s better this way: bring these riffs and ideas to a band and they may sand them down to something generic and painfully forgettable. But coming straight from the horse’s mouth, they’re lively and memorable. While forgoing the process of finding other band members may not work for most (no matter how awesome you think your riffs are, chances are they need an editor), it works just fine for Bloodsoaked. Nothing superfluous here, up to and including other musicians.

(4 out of 5 horns)


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