You could be forgiven if you were surprised to hear that Decrepit Birth are releasing a new album. After all, it’s been seven long years since the band graced our ears with Polarity and three since they’ve been on tour (up until this past spring’s Devastation on the Nation run with Cryptopsy). Most hiatuses that lengthy are enough to completely stall a band’s momentum, but that didn’t deter Decrepit Birth, who return to us with their fourth full-length album, Axis Mundi. After a seven year wait, what’s the word on the newest effort? It’s solid, but a little underwhelming.
Don’t get me wrong: this album is heavy as a black hole. It just seems to lack the feel of Decrepit Birth’s previous work. The most notable change is the lack of melodic parts — other than on “Spirit Guide” — but it shouldn’t be said that the band just cut all melody and left a gaping hole in its place. Decrepit Birth have written some noticeably darker riffs here than on past efforts and Axis Mundi has a much more aggressive sound than the rest of their previous records. Because, you know, Decrepit Birth totally sounded like a Disney movie soundtrack before. It’s hard to blame Decrepit Birth for changing their style up a little bit: outside of Slayer, every band has to switch things up eventually. But some risks pay off better than others, even if I wouldn’t call this move particularly risky.
Style change aside, however, let’s talk about how the record sounds. The instruments themselves are much clearer than on Polarity, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that the vocals aren’t at 100% on Axis Mundi. Bill Robinson’s growls and gutturals are much less understandable than on past efforts, taking a step back while everything else takes two steps forward.
So what’s the final verdict? Axis Mundi is a good album, just not a great one. The melodic element on top of technical death metal made Decrepit Birth who they are, and that element isn’t present here. It’s certainly heavy, and it’s got some good songs, but it doesn’t feel as if Decrepit Birth were the only band who could’ve written this record. It’s solid and consistent, and although the songs can stand individually they don’t stand out much from each other. If you want a good technical death metal record then you’ll be pleased with Axis Mundi, but if you wanted a record that says “We’re Decrepit Birth and no one does this the way we do,” this one will fall short.
Axis Mundi drops July 21 via Nuclear Blast. You can preorder here and listen to “Epigenetic Triplicity” below.