While the most famous extreme metal band from Prague is likely !T.O.O.H.! (short for “The Obliteration Of Humanity”), the city has also been home to some of the most innovative acts in grindcore (Negligent Collateral Collapse, Ahumado Granujo, Destructive Explosion of Anal Garland) and death metal (Brutally Deceased, Jig-Ai, Poppy Seed Grinder) since time immemorial, or, at least, twenty years. Birthplace of Franz Kafka and site of the world’s oldest working astronomical clock, the rich history of the environs contributes to the creation of meaningful works of art, such as the new album by Congenital Anomalies, Misconception.
Judged by its cover, one might expect well-produced modern brutal death metal like Pathology or Devourment, perhaps with light sci-fi themes a la Origin or Wormed. This isn’t far from the mark, but Misconception captures an organic quality that eludes many big label “chugga-chugga-slam” contrivances. The level of musicality demonstrated here is higher than ever. Without straying too far into tech-death territory, the drumming at times evokes Cabinet-era Spawn of Possession, while the guitar work brings to mind recent Guttural Secrete. VytahFetus and recent addition Wajt (Inner Hate, ex-Apocryphal Death) maneuver around the pitfall of wankery with tact and humility. There are also still plenty of slams, firmly rooting this album in the brutal death metal canon.
Gone are the fuzzy high-distortion guitars of their early demos. The band’s current sound has been fairly consistent since 2014’s Human Embryonic Mutilation, combining tremolo picking with sweeping arpeggiation and blast beats. The production quality is decidedly a step up from from the two tracks on 2015’s Pathology of Anomalous Origin split with Stillbirth, Disfigurement of Flesh and Nephrectomy, which, despite being some of Congenital Anomalies’ heaviest songs, sound like leftovers from an old recording session. The mixing and mastering on this new album shines at every turn, from the crisply programmed drums to the pummeling basslines and guttural vocals.
Two standout tracks for me are “Forced to Dementia,” a galloping pronouncement in the vein of Evisceration Plague by Cannibal Corpse, and “Haemagogus,” a re-recording of the title track from the band’s debut demo. “S.C.A.R.S.” is another second-half dragknuckle slammer that almost makes the album feel backloaded, but instead plays out like a crescendo. The songwriting remains dynamic and engaging throughout the thirty minute run-time, and the band’s latent chemistry suggests that Wajt and new member Petr Bláha are fitting in nicely. After seven years, many bands either stagnate or break up, but Congenital Anomalies are tighter and more focused than ever. To doubt this would be a misconception.