DevourDevourment’s 1999 debut album, ‘Molesting the Decapitated’, was one of the more memorable examples of brutal death metal at the turn of the century. Consisting of down-tuned mayhem, slamming tunes, grizzly cover art and some of the fastest snare rolls imaginable, it was an absolute winner. Fast forward to 2005 and the band had undergone some major changes for ‘Butcher the Weak’, with Ruben Rosas switching from vocal to guitar duties and Mike Majewski going over from bass to vocals. On top of that, their second full-length also saw the introduction of a new rhythm section in Chris Andrews (bass) and Erik Park (drums). At the time, I couldn’t wait to hear what would follow the crushing debut. Unfortunately I was left disappointed by the duller, more conventional display, not to mention that dumbed-down version of the anthemic ‘Baby Killer’.

Oh well. That was then and this is now. Having not realised that ‘Unleash the Carnivore’ came out in 2009, I can’t really predict where ‘Conceived in Sewage’ will go or what sound Devourment have settled into. To my surprise, ‘Legalize Homicide’ opens up in almost epic fashion, with a hefty riff repeated a few times, the snare head popping around nicely and a protracted grunt. This gives way to a momentum and groove which is similar to 6FU imbued with a more underground edge. Once they appear, the blast-beats sound faster than I remember on ‘Butcher…’, which is one thing. Another, regarding the sound in general, is that this is a tad tame compared to their fearsome debut. Having said that, when they break into a pummeling groove it’s hard not to get involved and nod your head in time with the music. First impressions: this is a meaner sounding and more concise version of the band than I last heard. ‘Fifty Ton War Machine’ draws some comparison with Origin’s first album with its forceful approach and a production which, to me at least, sounds quite similar. A suitably chunky breakdown underlines the final part of the song.

Beginning slowly and quite atmospherically, the title track even incorporates a less guttural strain to the vocals before getting back to those lower frequencies. Another band this reminds me of, perhaps inevitably, is early Dying Fetus. The pace isn’t as fast but the guitars have quite an explosive quality as they tear through the speakers on those slower parts. So far, so good. Though once the grooving mass of ‘Fucked with Rats’ takes shape, my attention and enthusiasm do begin to wane a little as an element of predictably creeps in. ‘March to Megiddo”s sounds of war and militarism provide an unexpected intermission at just the right time. But when the music resumes on ‘Today We Die, Tomorrow We Kill’, there is little aside from one good time change to really pull you back in. Thankfully then, the album highlight, ‘Heaving Acid’, follows. Starting out like Suffocation, the track goes heavy on the blast-beats before displaying Devourment at the depths of its depravity, with sewer-level vocal eruptions and a monstrous grinding mid-section. The closing track does likewise, with hints of the drumming of old and crushing brutality reminiscent of ‘Baby Killer’.

On the whole, ‘Conceived in Sewage’ is a really decent album save for that lull in the middle. Some listeners may argue that Devourment’s sound – and that of brutal death bands as a whole – is too limited. Well of course there are conventions to be adhered to, but in general these guys pull out the right moves at the right time. And when they hit their stride, there’s no two ways about it: Devourment is still an unstoppable force. Brutalists everywhere are going to gobble this up. It has certainly reignited my interest in the band, and as a result maybe I’ll even go back to ‘Butcher the Weak’ to see if I can extend my newfound appreciation to that as well…

(7.5/10 Jamie Wilson)