When one hears the name Fleshcrawl, the first thing that comes to mind is the legendary Autopsy song from Mental Funeral, yet a very peculiar German band carries that name. Descend Into the Absurd marks their highest peak musically and rightfully so. Taking more from the fully formed European style of the time that was influenced by Autopsy than Autopsy themselves. Combining Doom dirges that exude morbidity and flowing pensive phrasal riffs, Fleshcrawl create a forgotten classic and an important addition to Death metal.
Like the Swedish bands the note selection varies between pure chromaticism and the natural minor scale with chromatic notes that the band develop even more by allowing the chromatic notes to lead into both variants of the natural minor scale. The harmonic minor scale which was only starting to get recognition as a powerful tool for instilling mood at the time of this release, is on full display as it is fully explored in the interplay between the slower chords and the impressive lead guitar. The melodic minor through its inherent jazziness is used only sparingly to color the lead guitar and adds tension during certain chords when the band goes into complete Doom mode.
The individual performances stand out well due to the amount of breathing room these compositions contain making every little transition in the drums and bass stand out. The drummer does not seek to steal the spotlight but escapes from the time keeper rôle by varying his fills and utilizing his extended vocabulary to really define the mood without ever defying the movements of the guitars. During more pensive parts the drummer won’t allow his hands the freedom to evoke chaos but when the songs reach their climax, the drummer hits his snares and toms with fury. A very interesting performance by Bastian Herzog that deserves as much attention as the guitars. An undervalued performance from Alex Pretzer on vocals, a powerful growl pushed against the top of the palette that stays within the lower parts of the mid range and resonates through the chest and throat. The vocals do not stray too far in pitch except when other band members join in “Perpetual Dawn” and “Festering Flesh”. The lack of artificial compression allows for variations in volume and intent to be heard perfectly as the vocals will remain consistant and almost soothing during certain parts to show the dialogue that this narrator is having with himself but during the frantic passages, the growls become louder and have much more urgency and escape the well defined cadences that are very effectively used and particularly memorable on tracks like “Infected Subconscious” and “Lost In Grave”. The lead guitar is very expressive and does not use the noise tactics typical of many bands in the genre but creates grand majestic melodies that push the motifs underneath to either resolve or to further convey the emotions being conjured by the rhythm guitar. There are all the tremolo tricks present but are used uniquely to make interesting melodies that do not seek to conquer the music. All performances here are impressive and contain far too many nuances to be covered in one piece.
The compositions seek at first to introduce a motif like all good Death metal before going through a different iterations until it is deconstructed in the form of a simple tremolo picked melody or a slow power chord sequence. From that point the options of the Death metal riff maze are completely open and what happens is then dependent on the composition itself. The band seek to complete every pensive moment presented here with a powerful realization and then action emanating from that realization. By doing so they show that all thoughts regarding death and the fragility of life must lead to an grand act otherwise they do not benefit the individual concerned with such thoughts.
Fleshcrawl differentiate between the notion of an unrestrained climax and a conclusion which signifies a certain form of stability as all the possibilities have been explored and the piece ends on a motif that has gone through modulation to end the track on a specific truth that can only be achieved through the process of intense concentration followed by an unstoppable will to reach that truth through whatever means necessary. Fleshcrawl may seem like a band that simply alternates between fast and slow sections but from that dichotomy the band has opened a wide number of paths to explore freely.
Descend Into the Absurd is a forgotten classic of the genre and should not only be remembered for being from a country more known for its Speed metal than Death metal but as a unique adaptation of the Swedish that has forged a unique identity despite of how overtly it shows its influences to the world. Fleshcrawl would never recapture the magic found on this record but would turn their heads towards more anthemic Heavy metal based Death metal and releasing a rather well executed Demilich cover. Overshadowed by other great classics released during this time period has not hindered this group’s legacy and they stand upon the pantheon not at the highest summit but from a comfortable position visible only to those willing to explore untrodden paths.