Slam what?! A review of Maggot Colony’s new album you didn’t know you needed until now

Max Jonas Knaver, Writer

This week’s album can be streamed below via either Spotify or YouTube.

Largely due to reasons pertaining to musical taste, these reviews have a tendency to mention by name a particular musical niche called slam. As yet, there has not been a proper review of an album fully in the slam idiom in this feature, but rather a number of comparisons to describe a certain sort of ultra-heavy sound. However, with the release of Maggot Colony’s new EP (and not much else of interest) this week, the time has come not only to dissect a proper (albeit bite-sized) slam work, but to take a step back and figure out precisely what that means.

Slam as a genre refers to a very niche subtype of metal that focuses primarily on super heavy riffs. Slam gets its name from a type of guitar riff consisting of slow, steady power chords that move chromatically around the lower end of the guitar’s range. It’s a simple, but very effective musical technique. Slams first appeared in brutal death metal, which itself was born as a type of death metal focusing on slower, heavier, groovy riffs.

Generally speaking, slam bands follow the style of Devourment. This means more or less constant chuggy, low register riffing on the guitars in heavy contrast to blistering fast drum work. Most riffs’ backing drum patterns consist of relentless blast beats, usually on a high tuned and very ringy snare drum, or slow grooves played over straight double bass patterns of frankly irresponsibly high tempo. Bass follows the guitar riffs, perhaps occasionally shining through with a fill or short solo, and vocals are almost always gutturals, a more intense version of the normal death metal growling style, or pig squeals, a technique which when performed sounds–for better or worse–like its namesake.

The issue prevalent in slam as a musical style is that, despite it being very niche and extreme, there is a large number of bands who could be categorized as belonging to the genre. It’s also very easy for slam, being based on a very specific style of guitar riff, to become overly repetitive and stale. The end result is a genre with a very devoted underground following that is chock full of mediocrity and generic-sounding bands, making those who truly master the style have an even harder time shining through.

Maggot Colony’s Spewing The Violated Souls plays out like a three-song masterclass in slam. It strikes the ever-elusive balance between the oppressive, pounding aesthetic so integral to the style and being able to hold the listener’s attention. From the opening salvo of “Regurgitated Sins of Men” to “The Crimson Swirl”’s final bombardment of staccato blasts, the album devastates in a way few bands of this young age are capable.

A successful death metal riff often has to rely on a change in rhythm or pace to a much larger degree than a phrase in any other piece of music, as it has to fill the role of the main event, even while repeated ad nauseum, without relying on traditional melodicism. Maggot Colony seem to understand this, as their potent songcraft has at its core a barrage of riffs of varying tempos and rhythmic patterns that flow smoothly and tactfully within individual songs.

The three songs are each exactly what they should be: catchy, unique, and, most importantly, brutal. Production, uncharacteristically for a slam album, is crystal clear, with annoying genre-specific quirks like indistinct, fizzy guitar tones, obnoxiously loud snare drums, and clicky kick drums all refreshingly absent. All the instruments are perfectly audible and fill their roles perfectly, and the vocals, which appear for most of the run time as gutturals, are well-delivered and about as clear and distinct as could be reasonably asked.

Although musically speaking pretty much all aspects of Spewing The Violated Souls are by-the-book, it has a distinctive character all its own and is wholly well-crafted. Maggot Colony does one thing. They do slam, but not only do they do it well, they do it expertly.

Join us next week for a new full-length review of one-man black metal act Leviathan’s latest, Scar Sighted.