Retrospective : Intestine Baalism – An Anatomy of the Beast

Intestine Baalism are a Death metal band formed in the suburbs of Tokyo in 1991, their first full length only came out in 1997, having only released a pair of demos featuring songs that ended up on this album, it is safe to confirm that Intestine Baalism is a latecomer to a genre that had already seen it’s apex and was now slowly descending into Brutal and Technical Death metal territory. Anatomy of a beast takes advantage of the power of hindsight to successfully fusion the works of Carnage,Dismember and Suffocation against the more Heavy metal derived melodies of Sentenced, bringing to life a potent record that is at times just as peculiar as the band’s name.

Recorded just before the digital explosion that studios would soon chase and the even greater depths of compression that modern studios apply still to this day. The album is very bass heavy but guitars retain their tone and pierce through the mix perfectly especially during the leads and note definition is retained very well with the vocals gliding on top. The drums and bass suffer from the room taken up by the guitars and can only emerge when the guitars drift off to melodies in the higher registers. The bass is especially tucked into the guitar tone and when heard usually sticks to the root notes in a minimalistic backing role. The Drums are in the Swedish style and follow the D-beat that has come to define the aesthetics of the genre, though various different beats are also shown and the drummer is excellent at arranging the drums to follow the intensity of the guitars while adding some creative fills with the toms when given the space to do so. The guitars have three modes that form the basis of these compositions. The consonant melodies that are often harmonized in thirds or with one guitar playing a solo on top. The dark tremolo picked riffs in the style of Dismember and Carnage that are often slowed down to show the majesty of the dark brooding melodies. The savage percussive attack of Suffocation that deconstructs into almost ritualistic music. Vocals start to show signs of modernity as the switching between high and low growls is often used with the deep voice being a Frank Mullen like grunt and the higher voice which is similar to Glen Benton’s higher scream but with a pronounced Black metal rasp. As an ode to their influences there are glimpses of the Swedish vocal style that appear, especially during the song «Corporal Celebration».

The note selection is identical to that of their influences and doesn’t stray from them except during a few variations on certain melodies that find the band successfully merging their influences. The melodies presented on this album could easily feature on the albums of their predecessors judged on quality as the band understand the riffcraft and are able to come up within their ideas in the limitations set by those bands. They nimbly avoid the pitfalls that copycat bands fall into constantly. They recognise that the Swedish style is defined by minor key melodies that flow effortlessly into Punk like dissonant power chord barrages. On «Energumenus – The Birth of The Cursed Creations» the band utilise an old Suffocation trope that forms the center of this piece. Taking a motif and introducing it in percussive palm muted form before shifting to a tremolo variation that then introduces the full breakdown. They also remember that the strength of the percussive assault comes from the melody and not only from the heavily syncopated rhythms, allowing them to maintain character and to not fall into the trap of rhythm for rhythm’s sake. The Heavy metal parts are straightforward and work due to the simple motifs that the band slowly mutate to form the solos and never allowing for a rhythm/lead dichotomy making sure that the solos continuously have a purpose not matter how flashy they get at times.

One of the issues that plagues this album is the sheer number of ideas that are inserted into a song and that have incredible potential yet are never given the necessary times to properly progress and it often feels that the band want to make all the ideas fit in standard song lengths though some of these compositions could easily surpass the 10 minute mark thanks to the sheer number of excellent riffs that constantly grace the listener’s ears. The biggest culprit on this album is the song «Tyrant» which begins in Dismember mode and develops a single motif for over 2 minutes in jaw dropping manner in such that it could easily have featured on Like An Everflowing Stream before adding other motifs that just don’t have the time to breathe before the composition comes to an end. Resulting in a simultaneously mind blowing and frustrating listen that does not conclude properly. «Anatomy of the Beast» solves a lof of those issues with its triumphant and joyful opening that then leads fluidly into a consonant tremolo picked section that uses a similar yet more condensed motif that like Dismember, meets a counter motif before expanding that motif into other directions and adding other counter motifs; creating the duality that made Swedish Death metal so fascinating before finally exploding into an uplifting climax that is long enough to be felt before it reinstates a few of the previous melodies to then conclude on a pure Heavy metal note of grandeur. «Cannibal Sodom» forgoes the NYDM elements in favour of a more fluid and narrative approach that works very well as it introduces the percussive elements right at the end for the climax/conclusion

Intestine Baalism show mastery of three different styles and are great at merging them together to define their own style out of borrowed tools. The music is incredibly complex, far beyond the complexity of each individual section and really opens up an obvious path for the continuation of Death metal. «A Place Their Gods Left Behind» finds the band fully exploring the possibilities that these motifs have given them and the band decide to use the narrative Black metal arrangement to progress through them all in a much more emotional and convincing method and then using a Malmsteen like solo to conclude the composition in a cheesy but effective way until there is nothing left to say. For Intestine Baalism, their ability to mix different schools of metal and force them into the melodic narrative format is the greatest ability and only on this track is it fully developed and executed as it opens so many possibilities for future Death metal bands. There is an almost soulless sensation to this record at times due to the lack of expansion of their melodies and unfortunately this keeps the band away from the pantheon of metal greats but far ahead the rest as they sit uncomfortably between being great and good. An innovative record that contains all the material required to create new directions but lacking the emotive quality for it to be the start of something new, Intestine Baalism have created the greatest Japanese metal album of all time and more importantly have shown us the way for new untrodden paths.

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13 thoughts on “Retrospective : Intestine Baalism – An Anatomy of the Beast

  1. Flying Kites says:

    When you said in the comments of a previous article that you’d listen to Intestine Baalism, you really meant it. 8^o

    1. What did you expect to me to chill on Ihsahn’s couch while listening to Behemoth

  2. and only hunger spinal remains says:

    Standing, he lowered the lifted cauldron,
    swung murderous Mjolnir with mighty hands:
    the whales-of-the-waste he whelmed altogether.

  3. Stefanos says:

    An awesome article! Cheers, Nicholas.

  4. Dirty Coke Nail of Doom says:

    Excellent article, and great album! Very fresh, and their ideas are intriguing. Has anyone listened to their other albums? Did they improve on the slight flaws present in the album? I’m planning on listening to the albums after this one, but I’m wondering if it’s worth it.

    1. Creed Braddock says:

      This one is easily their best and one of my favorite records ever. Banquet in the Darkness is forgettable, and Ultimate Instinct is decent although awkwardly arranged at times.

    2. torpedophile says:

      neither of the proceeding albums are as good as Anatomy. Banquet has too much melodeath and Instinct is emotionally flatter but both are still good death metal albums and worth a listen according to my exquisitely refined sensibilities

  5. Flying Kites says:

    The Energumenus demo of 1995. The intro sounds like a mix of Zelda and Castlevania, Japanese video games, though was Zelda even out then?

    1. torpedophile says:

      both zelda and castlevania came out in 1986

  6. Svmmoned says:

    Japanese as fuck. Not only beautiful solos bordering on cheesiness, but also that laidback “jazziness” in riffs. But here it is still in tolerable proportions and while it may at times sound like something from video games, I think that’s only because most of us were exposed to general Japanese musical sensibilities mainly through them.

    Nick, what do you think about Cenotaph’s second?

    1. Cenotaph’s second is very well executed if not a bit saccharine at times,one of the greater Melodic DM albums in a genre full of crap

  7. Glibert V says:

    Awesome article, is not D-beat DM, Melo Death, “The music is incredibly complex” yeahhh, you know

  8. Gynecomastia Fetishist says:

    I thought you guys hated all Japanese music because none of it is original? I tend to agree even though GISM, Death Side, and (early) X (Japan) is some of my favorite music.

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