Published Aug 15, 2019The intentions and shift in mindset that Devourment have undergone since their last record are plain to see in the striking cover art for their new album, Obscene Majesty. Standing in stark contrast with their past representation — and indeed the whole of death metal itself — the album boasts a morbid display of despair via a surprising thematic through-line: antiquity.
"We just wanted something more mature, more evolved," states drummer, Brad Fincher, "[something] that we think is just as brutal, but what seems a little more grown up or thought out. Myself and [Chris Andrews] (guitar) are both huge Renaissance and Victorian art geeks, so we just thought, 'Let's go a completely different way with it.' We wanted to evolve the aesthetic of the whole band musically, visually and lyrically, and [the art] was a good way in. We didn't want the typical stuff that's been associated with us before, stuff that's just been done to death."
Where death metal has been largely founded upon the tenets of gore and taboo imagery, its offshoots, like brutal death and slam, have gone even farther out of the realms of taste, garnering much criticism for an often blatant aesthetic of misogynistic subject matter. And while Devourment have dredged those depths before, time has broadened the band's conceptual perspective.
"A band like us who have a history of being associated with that sort of thing, it's not worth running away from it," says Fincher, "Thinking about 20 years ago, when this stuff was underground and shocking… it's not shocking anymore. It's kinda played out, lazy and simple."
Fincher's words ring true, as swathes of bands within the genre build their reputations on themes of torture and sexual violence, to the point of becoming a farce.
"There's a lot [of] brutal, disgusting things that people deal with in real life. Depression, self mutilation, thoughts of suicide and that kind of thing."
That mission statement permeates the lyrics and themes in Obscene Majesty, taking the visceral and applying it to larger canvases relating to our own real-world horrors.
Then, the band "fleshed them out more, so that it's brutal and over the top, but it's not as immature or low brow as before."
The sonic persona of Devourment remains true to what they've always been, the inspiration behind it seems to have fortified itself anew. Their fifth full-length in 20 years, Obscene Majesty certifies the band as staples of the brutal death metal subgenre, growing up with it from its very beginnings and helping to set the standard this particular kind of music.
"The idea with Devourment was to create our ultimate band that we wanted to hear that we weren't hearing yet. So we kind of Frankensteined it together from things we liked from every band we could think of," Fincher recalls. "Right out of the gate, we were a niche within a niche, and we knew it, but we were fine with that. Any band that's gonna be successful just has to be true to where they are at at a given moment in time."
Obscene Majesty is a momentous point in an already considerable career.
"In terms of our songwriting ability and musicianship, we're kind of at the height of where we can go. We've really been pushing ourselves. It took us five years to be happy with these songs — and we didn't compromise one bit."
Obscene Majesty is out now courtesy of Relapse Records.