Pukewraith - Banquet of Scum (Sewer Rot)

The recent onslaught of "modernized" old school death metal (OSDM) shares a lot in common with the explosion of low-budget horror films in the '60 and '70s.  Beyond the obvious aesthetic similarities, both mediums are highly formulaic, often made on a shoestring budget, and require a high tolerance for the campily macabre.  There's also no shortage of either; my Bandcamp feed vomits forth meat-and-potatoes OSDM on a daily basis, much like IMDB's database bulges with a glut of shoddy slasher and zombie flicks and their multiple, inevitable sequels.  More importantly, they are both immune to pretense in a way that precludes objective criticism.  There are always exceptions, but the majority of OSDM albums and B-movies have no use for subtext or subtlety, and hurtle past those nuances in pursuit of the low-brow thrills and refried tropes that ultimately define them.  

Pukewraith is the solo OSDM vehicle of Toronto phenom Brendan Dean, who otherwise divides his time between Toronto bands Gutvoid, Fumes, and Soul Devourment.  While the aforementioned acts burrow into more progressive (and occasionally experimental) strains of death metal (DM), Pukewraith is content to tap liberally into the classic stylistic groundwork laid by seminal bands like Entombed, Possessed, and Incantation.  Although this familiar formula is slightly augmented with the debonair flash of formative Swedish DM and the savage but lyrical histrionics of early goregrind (Carcass comes immediately to mind), it's clear from the start that Banquet of Scum is archetypal DM; it's only slightly more promiscuous in terms of influences.  It would be a brave dismissal of DM trends, were this gambit not such a trend unto itself. 

Perhaps ironically, it is the ways that Banquet of Scum blows its cover that distinguish it from other OSDM retreads.  It's obvious that it was made with modern recording gear; there's a waxy sheen coating the mix that blunts and smooths  the serrated edges of the HM-2 chainsaw.  Although this was likely intentionalnot only as an aesthetic choice, but also as a way to de-emphasize the use of electronic drumsthe overall effect is significant enough to warrant distinction.  The relatively primitive technology available to underground DM artists in the '80s and early '90s substantiated the ugliness inherent to their work and contaminated those first few primal DM records with legitimate sonic filth.  For better or worse, Banquet of Scum is not so defiled.

That's not to say Pukewraith have made a bad record at all.  Despite the sterile, semi-synthetic quality of the mix, Banquet of Scum sounds punchy and robust, and there's hardly a dull moment.  The songwriting is focused and straightforward; tracks are efficiently constructed around  balls-out, kamikaze-style riffing that prioritizes speed and groove over atmosphere.  I'm notoriously picky about vocals, but these are sufficiently ferocious, if not somewhat generic.  There's even a few memorable bass lines!  Given the niche, there's absolutely nothing original or groundbreaking about this album (nor is there supposed to be) but the campy, splatterhouse angle is undeniably ebullient.  If you like Coffin Rot, Disembowel, Intestinal Hex, or the idea of a more stripped-back version of Hyperdontia, give this a whirl.  Much like the umpteenth installment of a long-standing horror franchise, Pukewraith is derivative, but it knows exactly what it wants to do.