Album Review: Pathology - "The Time of Great Purification"

Brace yourselves. What you are about to read are words that I never, ever, in a lifetime of music reviews, thought I would say about an album. It is Pathology's new record "The Time of Great Purification" which brings me to this astounding, heretofore thought impossible revelation.

You know, this album reminds me a little of the old band Cock and Ball Torture.

If you're not familiar with that act, be extremely careful when googling them, particularly if you're at work. So anyway, back in the day when C&BT was a "relevant" musical act, I remember hearing an album of theirs, listening to their singer, and thinking "this is so comically over the top that it sounds like they strapped a microphone to a grizzly bear with duct tape and then sank the whole assembly underwater." Lord knows if C&BT made a decent album or not; I was so distracted by the ridiculous vocal performance that I couldn't get past it.

By now, you're likely putting together how this relates to Pathology.

Never again did I think I would hear similar vocal 'stylings,' but here we are. The San Diego-based death metal quartet sits at the table offering this unique concoction for consumption long after I thought the world had heard its end. What sets Pathology's "The Time of Great Purification" apart from the heady days of C&BT is that Pathology is also apparently capable of writing an accomplished death metal album while they're at it.

Centering the idea of their album around the Mayan 2012 Doomsday prediction, Pathology has produced an effort that is halfway between Crowbar and Goatwhore, only with a deluged bear at the center of it all. If the listener is patient enough to unravel or disregard some layers of the project, then Pathology's album can be a wholly worthwhile endeavor. It succeeds mightily in building an almost doom-tinged edifice, while maintaining a core of the most modern interpretations of death metal.

Regrettably, it's awfully hard to overlook the overbearing and oversaturated vocals. Songs like "Asphyxiation Through Consumption" and "Corporate Harvest" are sunk by the non-stop, insistent bellowing combined with a battery of distorted guitars and repetitive blast beats. It's possible that these songs have some depth, but the music is so thick and the vocals so immensely distracting that, like a school lunch grilled cheese sandwich, they can't be pulled apart for examination.

Second to this is the notion that some of the songs on the album are awfully messy. "Oppression By Faith" is a song that tries to be an awful lot of things, but ends up too off cadence for its own good. In an attempt to catch the listener napping, this track stutters its beat and allows for a sort of chromatic tonality that throws notes in unusual places. It's ambitious given the type of music we're talking about, but it's too much.

"A Bleak Future," by contrast, is a plodding, brutal piece featuring some nice soloing that shows the kind of songcraft that Pathology should concentrate on. Crowbar fans will find material that strikes near to their preferences in this and selections like it. Brutal is a terribly overused word, particularly in the realm of heavy metal, but in this case it can be used accurately.

Finally, there are songs that mix together a successful blend of the best elements of pathology, combining exact soloing with hook-laden riffing to create the album's signature moments. For a few clairvoyant moments, Pathology crafts a song that beneath all the vocal disturbance, can grab the ear and make metal hearts happy. "Tyrannical Decay," if it's not too much of an affront to say this, is a crafted death metal song, bringing together the strands of guitar imagination and death metal sensibility that fans have some to expect.

If you can get over the vocals, Pathology's "The Time of Great Purification" is occasionally on to something. Most people probably can't look past the grunting, and that may be an indictment of Pathology more than the people's understanding of the music. While Pathology does some nice things, it's hard to give them the benefit of the doubt on some of their decisions.

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