There was an era when death metal didn’t have to mean million mile per hour blasts and time signature changes every four bars. This is going back a ways, mind you, to the time of Mantas/early Death, Massacre, and the like, before technicality with a side of generic breakdowns became the order of the day. They had a sound which is kept alive by old school bastions such as Obituary and Autopsy, and another band that should be added to that list is Kenosha, Wisconsin’s Jungle Rot, the purveyors of self-described “Knuckle-dragging Neanderthal death metal”. Active since ‘94, Jungle Rot has been pounding out simple, straightforward death metal/death thrash for nearly two decades now, and presents more of the same on their latest album, Terror Regime.
At the heart of Jungle Rot’s sound is that thick Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier guitar tone. It’s fat, it’s clear, it’s undeniably death metal. Where would we be without it? The tone is combined with guitarist Dave Matrise’s gravelly mid-range vocals, a bullet belt full of pit riffs, and socially conscious/military themed lyrical banter that doesn’t have much use for euphemisms or subtext. Everything about Jungle Rot is about simplicity; brutal, honest simplicity.
Getting the record started is “Voice Your Disgust”, a track that wouldn’t sound out of place on a new-era Destruction album. It’s worth pointing out that this is Jungle Rot’s second album for Victory Records, the one-time champion of the hardcore and screamo scenes that in recent years has taken to signing the occasional death metal act, with Kenosha’s finest serving as one of the guinea pigs. What, if any, influence has Victory had on the Jungle Rot sound? There’s the obvious wall of death inciting bridge and telegraphed breakdown in the title track. It’s clear that all the tracks on Terror Regime were written with the live show in mind, though. The songs were made easy to follow; easy to bang your head along to. It’s the kind of music that shifts units at a concert because while not overly impressive on CD, the songs would and will absolutely crush when played live, and send people straight over to Jungle Rot’s merch table at set’s conclusion. Is this death metal’s version of the pop compromise, or just four dudes trying to make some good ol’ fashioned Midwestern boot stompin’ death metal? Lets’ give them the benefit of the doubt and go with the latter. After all, this isn’t Jungle Rot’s first ride at the rodeo.
Jungle Rot does brutality well without being flashy, even in the guitar solos. The whole band, Matrise along with Geoff Bub on guitar, Jesse Beahler on the drums, and James Genenz on bass, gets locked into a rhythm, a single catchy riff to build a song around, and just go for an accessible crowd pleaser. They keep entirely to the death metal standard bearers. There’s the anti-organized religion track (“Blind Devotion”), the old crust and punk influence worn on the sleeve (“I Am Hatred”, “Ruthless Omnipotence”), and lots of work on the whammy bar during the guitar solos a la Hanneman and King. It’s all incredibly easy to digest, which unfortunately makes it just as replaceable and forgettable. The best way to remember it is to see it performed live. On disc, it falls a bit flat. There is an adequate tribute to the godfathers of crossover, D.R.I., as Jungle Rot gives their take on “I Don’t Need Society”. That’s not enough to put this on a “Must Have” list, though. Your best bet is to see the songs off Terror Regime played live, pick up the record at a concert, and let it serve as a reminder of the head banging good time you had. Otherwise, on its own, what we have here is a solid but unremarkable album that delivers what it promises but falls just short of leaving a lasting impression.
// Notes from the Road
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