Horrific Existence is the debut full length release from Californian death metal band Cranial Engorgement. Cranial Engorgement are listed as forming in 2007 so this release is essentially 10 years in the making. That’s a long time so expectations should be high. I must admit that I find it a little odd for a band to exist for a decade without releasing any albums though. I assume they have been working hard behind the scenes getting their name out there and touring as much as they can.
Back to the band though and Cranial Engorgement are a 3 piece outfit. They are made up of Tyler Contreras who looks after bass and backing vocals, John Kraken on drums and Noah Lopez who is the guitarist and main vocalist. In regards to style, they are somewhere between death metal and black metal – blackened death metal maybe? You know by the name, this is heavy stuff and that they are probably out to engorge your cranium. There is no clean singing here.
Cranial Engorgement list many black metal and death metal band’s as influences such as early Internal Bleeding, Mortal Decay, Skinless, Dying Fetus and Cannibal Corpse. With influences like that you will probably expect a wall of brutality and you would be right. There is more to them though. There are moments in tracks that really elevate things and really modernise some of the songs. Old school meets new school, I guess, though there are also plenty of just old school moments here too. They are definitely a band who seem happy with jumping in to other genres when they need to.
We get moments like the acoustic, Latino sounding guitars on the instrumental In Loving Memory. In Loving Memory is a purely guitar and bass instrumental and acts as a slightly morose but calming piece of music. The album intro, Prelude to Horror, uses dialogue sampled from the Dawn of the Dead remake. That then switches into a big, thumping riff which is actually not really death metal and sounds more like a Madball or Sepultura riff.
Songs like Dawn of the Final Day start off with the more stereotypical brutality of this genre with grunts and roars making up the vocals over intensely fast drumming for the most part. Even this track pulls out a few surprises though with a hardcore styled breakdown. Slithering Saviour is another of the heaviest as it starts with a rhythmic riff on top of thundering drums and bass. The verses here are vicious though and all instruments are played at a frantic pace. Molded by Cruelty is another full pelt beast of a track. With added vocals from Dying Fetus’ John Gallagher, you get a bit more depth to the vocals. The first part of the tracks will leave you breathless at it’s pace. It settles into a broody rhythm nearer it’s close before returning to the blast beats and growls to close.
Title track Horrific Existence has a gently played intro that makes it sound acoustic like. It switches to a heavy beat with stop start drums and throaty roars and growls that are impossible to understand and make you feel for Noah’s throat. I Am God has an almost sludgy, doom intro with each bar ending in a high pitched guitar squeal before it settles blindingly fast shredding for the verses. It has a heavy breakdown near the end with slower shouted vocals. This is similar to the song Mongoloid Massacre in it’s ending but that track starts with a drum intro and then a bit of shredding that reminds me of thrash metal before suddenly switching to blast beats and roars.
As an album, you get what you expect mostly with slamming bass, fast, but often basic, riffs and fast and furious drumming. Vocally it is impossible to understand most of what is roared at you. It is guttural and animalistic and not everyone’s cup of tea. It does work with the music here though and that is what matters. The momentary drifts into different genres is welcome and adds a lot to the album. It keeps it fresh throughout and stops each track being too predictable.
The real highlight for me on the album is John Kraken on the drums. He is a beast of a drummer and plays furiously fast tempo beats but seamlessly switches to different rhythms and speeds. Importantly it all sounds so natural as he flies through blast beats, fills and more gentle tempos. It could all do with a bit of a polish in regards to the overall production with a slightly muffled sound to it at points though. I, from a personal perspective, would have liked to have seen a bit more creativity with the vocal style. There is invention with the music and drums in regards to delving into different genres but not with the vocals. Still, that is just a personal thing.
All in all Cranial Engorgement have a bucket load of potential and this is a really strong debut. Lets hope it doesn’t take another decade for a follow up.
Check out the full track listing below –
1. Prelude to Horror (Intro)
2. Dawn of The Final Day
3. Conceived into The Suffering
4. Mongoloid Massacre
5. Slithering Savior
6. A Living Hell
7. I Am God
8. Molded by Cruelty (Feat. John Gallagher)
9. In Loving Memory (instrumental)
10. Horrific Existence
11. Sodomized and Left to Die
Cranial Engorgement - Horrific Existence (Gore House Productions)