When I pried open the jewel case on this one, I was surprised to see that Sixth Extinction is produced by Colin Marston (of
Behold... The Arctopus/Krallice/Dysrhythmia fame); the dude is everywhere these days. I've grown quite enamored of the drum performance and production on the previous Defeatist album(compilation), Sharp Blades Sink Deep Into Dull Minds. Joel Stallings' drumming on that effort is absurdly prominent in the mix, occupying a huge swath of the stereo field. It feels like the snare is impacting your occipital lobe while toms administer open-handed slaps to both sides of your face.
It's no surprise that the production on Sixth Extinction is quite different. Colin Marston has taken a much more evenhanded approach. The drums, while no less magnificent, have taken a backseat to Aaron Nichols' guitars. All told, we have a fairly standard and even conservative sound for a grindcore album. My initial impression of Sixth Extinction was disappointment; I miss being assaulted by percussion. But after a few listens, that sentiment faded and I was able to appreciate the album.
With the guitars leaping to the fore, we get a general increase in the quality and diversity of riffage. “Heresy Delusion” sports a rampaging riff that triggers the “headbang” impulse in my brain. There's a lot of rhythmic diversity in the guitar work. “Petit Mort” has a Magrudergrind vibe with its thrashier riff, and it is probably one of the best songs on the album. The slimy, sliding guitar work on “Death Holds Her Brood” actually makes me think of Pantera's “A New Level.” I dig it. “Warning” features a nice bent-note steamroller that has a bit of a sludge aftertaste. At other times I also spy the dissonant spirit of very recent Napalm Death.
I honestly can't figure out out if Aaron Nichols is following the lyric sheet printed in the booklet. His screams are completely unintelligible and make me think of Mick Barr's inhuman croaking in Krallice. There's no grunting to be found here, only vocal chords stretched and scoured into agonizing yells. There's really not a ton of diversity in the vocal delivery, but that's nothing egregious in the world of grind.
The drumming on Sixth Extinction is aces. From my point of view, Joel Stallings can stand amongst the very best grind drummers. More than a few times, his precision and skill evokes the magic of Rob Proctor. It sounds as if there is a general decrease in velocity on this album. I'm wondering whether or not this is an illusion perpetrated by the subdued rhythmic production. Perhaps there are less blastbeats per capita on this one, but that doesn't bother me.
Sixth Extinction is constituted in such a way that the songs bleed together, giving the impression of one 27 minute grind marathon. I personally think grind benefits from breaks and breathing room, but Sixth Extinction gives no quarter. Some of the slower passages, such as the excellent groovage on “Malice Engine,” give a semblance of space, but it doesn't stop the tunes from running together. One minor pause can be found in the feedback of “Man's Inhumanity to Man,” which is also the slowest track on the album. On a side note, Aaron Nichols' screams on this minute and a half long track can stand up to the most anguished and tortured black metal performances.
All told, Sixth Extinction is a worthwhile and entertaining album. There's no tea-time here, just unrelenting grind. I've been told that Defeatist are best experienced live, and I plan to get a taste for myself in the near future. The band are playing a few shows in the northeast before they head down to the Maryland Deathfest in May.