While they've been around since 1999, Swedish extreme horror metal combo Facebreaker (not to be confused with the video game of the same name) tend to channel an even earlier era of death metal – the kind pioneered in their native land in the late '80s and early '90s by bands like Entombed – but with the stronger accent on horror themes characteristic of their US counterparts, and zombie themes in particular, often earning them the subgenre handle of "zombie metal." Their 2004 debut album Bloodred Hell was released on now-defunct UK label Rage of Achilles, but didn't quite rise above the underground until it was picked up by Cyclone Empire five years later. A slate of successful European shows followed, and the band returned to the studio for the 2010 follow-up Infected, which also picked up a fair share of critical praise among fans of the "Stockholm sound." Their third full-length, Dedicated to the Flesh, dropped this week in the US via Metal Blade Records, and picks up almost exactly where Infected left off – riffing on the original concept of a zombie outbreak and expanding it to global proportions, to the point where the only solution is atomic annihilation.
Facebreaker's handle is well-earned, as their musical style is simple, relentless and harsh, staying for the most part within the boundaries laid down over two decades ago, with less emphasis on technicality and more on thunderous, caustic riffs and raging ogre-style vocals. The pace is deliberate, without many rhythmic change-ups (even in the breakdowns) that you might expect from more thrash-inspired bands, though there is the occasional no-nonsense solo from lead guitarist Mika Lagreen. That's not to say the band hasn't cross-pollinated with other subgenres this time around; several tracks incorporate elements of the groove-based “death 'n' roll” rhythm common to bands like Six Feet Under. But in its pitch-black heart, Dedicated to the Flesh is still a Stockholm-style death metal album, driven to destruction with that distinctive, tortured guitar tone, even while digging through the graphic horror movie themes favored by their US counterparts like Obituary and Necrophagia.
The lyrics, written mainly by guitarist Janne Ivarsson, again focus almost exclusively on flesh-eating zombies and their doomed human prey (which is totally cool by me), delivered in the standard guttural roar by frontman Roberth Karlsson. Old-school fans know the sound, and admittedly it's an acquired taste, but certainly drives home the extreme horror elements. The infusion of down-tempo groove metal comes through strongest in the opening cut "Meat Freak," while the vintage dynamic drives the crushing title track and picks up momentum with cuts like "Catacomb." There are further variations in tempo this time out, from more deliberate floor-hugging chuggers like “Zombie Flesh Cult” to the speedier thrash of "Mutilator," peaking with the ultra-violent assault of “World Cremation,” which along with “Catacomb” ranks among the band's most intense head-banging offerings, and the closing cut "Tomb of the Hungry Dead" is suitably apocalyptic.
If you have a taste for early-era European death metal and the merciless buzzsaw tone of the genre's pioneers, Facebreaker is just the feast of entrails you've been craving. Even if you only dabble in old-school mode, Dedicated to the Flesh is still a must-have for fans of splattery horror metal in general, and zombie-themed music in particular.
Still need convincing? Go no further than “Carving for Brains," which was the first of the album's tracks to premiere in the US, and a solid representation of the album's extreme themes.