200 Stab Wounds, Slave to the Scalpel (Maggot Stomp, 2021)

The death metal renaissance vis a vis hardcore kids has been going on for quite some time, from the days of the Obituary camo hat being a staple at hardcore shows, to bands like Gatecreeper and Fuming Mouth’s crossover appeal.

I daresay that not since the dreaded days of deathcore have death metal and hardcore been such kissing cousins.

However, I think the recent cross-pollination of audiences is more an embracing of the common denominators in sound across these two genres: groove, brutality, and a flair for dramatic transitions and build-ups.

All three of these are fields in which Slave to the Scalpel, the debut LP offering by Ohio's 200 Stab Wounds, delivers in spades. From the get, this record expands on the promise of their debut EP, Piles of Festering Decomposition, an early quarantine offering that got many a rocker through those dark show-less times.

After this perfect 3-track debut that I myself gave numerous spins over the year and change since its release, I couldn’t wait to get Slave to the Scalpel into my ears. In true “go big or go home” mentality, everything on this record feels turned up to 11 compared to Piles

Where EP opener, “Maggot Casket," opted to lead us in with a somewhat melodic introduction, the opener here, “Skin Milk” wastes no time beating your face in. Opening with a drum intro overlaid with a sample of some sort of surgical instruction lecture, you don’t have much time before the riffs begin to hit you.

“Tow Rope Around the Throat” transitions abruptly from the ending groove in “Skin Milk” into its pummeling introduction which sets the tone for the rest of the song which traffics primarily in groove but still finds time to pick up the speed before coming back into a crushing breakdown preceded of course by feedback. 

The thing that truly makes this record stand-out is the infectiousness of the riffs. Despite being as heavy as anything else out there if not more so, they have a way of worming their way into your head.

Take second single and fourth track, “Itty Bitty Pieces” as an example. You will be humming the pinch harmonics in the first minute of the song for days on end, not to mention the romp style mosh part in the middle. The other standout feature on Slave to the Scalpel is the general atmosphere of controlled chaos. Almost every song seems to cycle through a variety of rhythms from tried and true double bass and blast, to thrashing circle pit-ready beats, and of course a healthy dose of groove sure to get the dance floor going.

Major props to their drummer for navigating all these changes at the drop of a hat. This “everything but the kitchen sink” approach ties into what I referred to earlier as “flair for dramatic transitions."

Photo: Adrian Colter

I’m a huge believer of the adage that nothing is heavy if everything is. If your entire song or record is all at one speed, the punch slowly starts to fade for me. However, if you throw in some variety, it makes every part you want to hit hard, hit that much harder.

Lead single “Drilling Your Head” manages to squeeze in a truly mind-boggling amount of changes into its mere 2-minute run time but it keeps you on your toes for the duration. It’s an approach that doesn’t feel miles away from Symphonies of Sickness/Necroticism-era Carcass (check the bonus tracks on 200 Stab Wounds’ debut EP for a sick cover of “Ruptured in Purulence” while we’re on the subject), but with shorter songs on average, which lends to the chaotic feel as the band crams enough riff ideas into these songs to potentially carry longer run times.

This is where subjectivity comes into play because I’d imagine that the death metal purist might favor the 5-7 minutesong lengths employed by Carcass, whereas while I love Necroticism, sometimes I just want 3 minutes of pure fury.

Slave to the Scalpel is truly an album built for moshing. I feel like the energy at their shows must be insane (and I look forward to seeing them myself very soon as of the time of this writing) because other than the handful of ambient samples on this record, I’d dare say that there wouldn’t be a single riff that doesn’t provoke some sort of physical reaction ranging from aggressive headbanging to actively trying to knock someone out.

No matter whether you like your riffs fast, slow, or mid-tempo, there’s something here to satisfy all enthusiasts of the dance floor. This is an appetizer sampler plate for the table of moshers, a delectable smorgasbord of different flavors bound to satisfy the widest possible cross-section of brutality connoisseurs.

This is why 200 Stab Wounds have been able to play shows with bands like God’s Hate and Knocked Loose, but also death metal legends such as Devourment and Internal Bleeding. Because as heavy music fans grow more and more subgenre-agnostic, it’s easier for a death metal band who can hit a hard groove to filter into different scenes and get a huge live reaction.

In short, I’d recommend this to anyone that likes anything heavy of any type. Maybe you won’t like every song, maybe you won’t like every riff, but there’s bound to be something for you here.

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