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Afterbirth's "Hovering Human Head Drones" Float Above the Death

Oct 09, 2023Oct 09, 2023

In But Not Of is a fitting title for Afterbirth‘s forthcoming full-length—This record is in, but not of, brutal death metal. Following 2020’s excellent Four Dimensional Flesh, this group of New York veterans have blasted even further beyond their murky early ’90s roots and seem poised to leave the orbit of death metal for a more unfettered, celestial take on the genre.

Gross song themes aside, Afterbirth have always sounded tighter and more cerebral than your typical brutal death or goregrind act. In But Not Of, however, takes even more frequent excursions into melody than the band’s previous releases. The building blocks of brutal death metal are here, to be sure: vocalist Will Smith’s bowel-shaking gurgles still channel each song’s intent; guitarist Cody Drasser still layers Byzantine guitar lines atop Keith Harris and David Case’s laser-focused rhythms.

However, synth textures, organic drum sounds, higher-register vocals, and lofty guitar lines propel this record beyond anything Afterbirth have previously recorded. Like Voyager 2 leaving the Solar System, Afterbirth now have a foot planted firmly outside of death metal. Nowhere is this clearer than on “Hovering Human Head Drones,” premiering below ahead of the album’s October release. Moving at a languid pace and wrapped in ethereal sounds, “Hovering Human Head Drones” sounds less like Event Horizon and more like 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Afterbirth have proved themselves to be fearless explorers of death metal’s outer limits. In shedding some of the pulverizing textures of their earlier work, these Long Islanders have given themselves room to expand. By turns contemplative and oppressive, “Hovering Human Head Drones” neatly encapsulates In But Not Of‘s ambition and breadth.

In But Not Of releases October 20th via Willowtip Records.