We are lucky enough to live in an era in which heavy music is being redefined. Bands like Conjurer, Employed To Serve and Venom Prison are completely changing the sound of British metal and hardcore by combining a myriad of influences, each building it up to something that sounds completely fresh and vital. Meanwhile, Deafheaven, Mol and Oathbreaker are bringing black metal and shoegaze to mainstream attention like never before. And then there is Stillbirth.
If you were to compile a list of the tropes of death metal, you might well expect to find blast beats, unintelligible vocals that regularly sound like a pig in pain and an uncompromising sense of brutality without a moments respite. All of these things are present on Annihilation of Mankind, but across the pantheons of death metal, from Cannibal Corpse to Black Dahlia Murder, you would also expect huge riffs. Riffs that make you stop in your tracks, riffs that define songs. And, sadly, this is what is missing from Stillbirth. They’re perfectly good at bashing your head in for 48 minutes, and are not without some attempts at innovation, as the Code Orange-esque electronic breaks in Firststrike show, but ultimately, after a number of listens of this album, nothing sticks in the mind beyond the corny stereotypical film samples jammed into the beginnings of Hypnotized By Lies and Plague Of Warfare.
The album barrels along at a fair pace, and the musicianship certainly can’t be criticised as every member of this band is technically excellent. But across it’s twelve tracks, Annihilation of Mankind never manages to step out of the shadow of it’s genre and really struggles to leave a lasting impression.