posted on 6/2012 By:
Before I signed up to review this new Dying Fetus record, I was tangentially party to a conversation between my fellow MetalReview staffers Doug Moore and Dan “Dr. Obstapus” Obstkrieg wherein this pair of irrepressible pranksters instilled in me a small bit of interest in Reign Supreme by discussing its shocking inclusion of strings and tablas. The sarcasm here should be obvious, because neither strings nor tablas exist in the world of Dying Fetus, but I must admit, I fell for it to some extent because I wanted to, because some kind of stylistic expansion – any kind of expansion, really – was the only thing that would make me interested in a Dying Fetus record in 2012.
Well, the joke’s on me, kids, because I’m stuck with Reign Supreme, and it’s exactly what you think it is.
You see, if you ask me, which you didn’t but I’m nevertheless telling you, Dying Fetus no longer carries a torch. Once they were something of a leading light, but I would argue that they haven’t made an interesting record in ages, since 2000’s Destroy The Opposition at the latest. They’ve made four records in the intervening years, but by many accounts, on each, they’ve been treading and retreading the same tech-slam ground. (Says many a review, "This one's what Dying Fetus does -- if you like Dying Fetus, you'll like it!") And by my account, the whole affair’s worn thin. Chugga-chug riffs, flying clicky kick-drums, sweep-picked arpeggios and dizzying leads, John Gallagher’s alternately inward grunting and outward growling… It’s all here, every bit of it, just like the last time. Mind you, within the band’s pantheon, there’s nothing woefully wrong with Reign Supreme – fans will likely love it expressly because it doesn’t deviate from the plot ("This one's what Dying Fetus does -- if you like Dying Fetus, you'll like it!") – but Dying Fetus’ single-minded focus on formula comes at the expense of any kind of inter-album upward trajectory.
But therein lies something wrong: This band is considered an upper-tier band, once one of extreme metal's finest, and in terms of every possible angle, between the point at which they were truly important and Reign Supreme, Dying Fetus has been thoroughly outdone, both by themselves and others. There’s no chugga-noodle riff here that hasn’t been done and overdone by countless deathcore bands in the last decade, and there’s no tech flourish that hasn’t been out-shredded by God knows how many arpeggio-as-riff outfits far more technical than this. These sweep-picked runs have been over-swept; these breakdowns have been long broken; these gurgles and growls have already been gurgled and growled. Moments poke forth – the intro sample to “From Womb To Waste” is amusing and legitimately disturbing, and “Revisionist Past” is the album’s best number, saved almost for last – but overall, this has all been done before and better, by this band and their umpteen followers. The leaders lead no more; the followers have long since passed them.
So this is the point where a certain portion of the Collective You gets mad at li’l ol’ me and cries foul and shouts things like, “Why are you reviewing this if you cannot understand the true undying power of Dying Fetus?!” and “DYING FETUS IS SOO BROOTAL DOOD THEY R BEST DEATH METAL BAND IF YOU DONT GET IT SUCK IT” and such. And though I will not suck it, I’m prepared for your outbursts – I’m aware that there are other sites praising Reign Supreme as another feather in the cap of a band at the forefront of death metal, but I offer a dissenting opinion, one in which Dying Fetus hasn’t been at the forefront of anything since they helped lay the groundwork for deathcore in the last millennium and subsequently began repeating themselves. There’s nothing wrong with settling into a groove – better bands have done it – but doing so negates any flag-bearer status a band may possess and puts them firmly in the category of “scene leader (retired).” The very conversation that led me to this review is proof that the band’s insistence upon endless repetition is becoming a punchline. Their formula has grown tired, beaten half to death by now; the fires have died and the beast is tired. Again, the leaders lead no more.
So, then, this is the point where a smaller subset of the Collective You calls me names (hopefully some clever ones!) and tells me that Dying Fetus isn’t tired and You’re not tired of Dying Fetus and You never will be because they are deities among mere mortals and we should all genuflect daily at their feet, except You’ll probably say it more directly, with fewer syllables and more typos and swear words. You may now proceed.
But while You’re frantically typing away about my failures, the fact remains: This band does pretty much one thing and one thing only, and at this point, it’s a (re-)tired old thing, clearly lacking spark. Nevertheless, if you still enjoy the dying embers of that thing, you will likely enjoy Reign Supreme because that is what this is. ("This one's what Dying Fetus does -- if you like Dying Fetus, you'll like it!") If you do not enjoy that, then avoid this. There is simply nothing more to say.
Except this: Dying Fetus, even a little expansion goes a long way… Maybe not tablas or violas, but how about a new idea… Just one. Rekindle the flame, become re-fired or go quietly into the night.
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