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Decomposition may seem like a simple thing: a body will stiffen, relax, change colors, and generally end up a liquified mess of carbon. On the inside, however, a much more complex process is at work, one of breaking down, corrupting the old, while making way for the new. Bone Sickness embody these principles on their new EP Alone in the Grave. Using death metal as their primary source of nutrients, they manage to corrupt and decay it into something more putrid, brimming with malignant life and ready to burst.

The band, based in Olympia, Washington, released a demo in 2010 and a self-titled EP in 2011. Basing their core sound on the riffery and madness of Autopsy and Repulsion, they have evolved in time to develop their own sound. The group obviously spent time trimming the fat here, refusing to indulge in the mindless guitar wankery that populates other acts of the genre. These folks know their instruments, and they don't need to show off to get the job done. From start to finish, each song is short, terse, and stays just as long as it is needed.

Alone in the Grave opens with "Submit to Decay" as a statement of intent, and doesn't slow down from there. From the aforementioned opener with it's noisey groove, "Strange Obsession" keeps the momentum going with drummer/vocalist Mitchell Martin bellowing and pounding his way through the tandem violence of guitarists Chase Slaker and Rusty Graff. The short-fused riff that starts off "Death and Dismemberment" quickly explodes into a barrage of classic riffage and scourging vocals. The tempo changes the band wields come to a head at the closer, "Tied to the Stake", but it doesn't feel out of place, and is one of the more memorable final tracks in recent memory.

Throughout the album, it's hard not to notice the other elements influencing their sound. There are some punk, hardcore, and grind moments on Alone in the Grave that stand out for the briefest of seconds before devolving back into the signature maelstrom. The band isn't showing off their new obsession with other genres of music. They are simply allowing those roots and influences to show a little, and it adds to the albums intensity. Lyrically and thematically, the usual tales of serial killers and violent death are there, but it's done with an almost Church of Misery type of worship, making it stand out a little from the average death metal album.

The only thing lacking sonically on this performance is the vocals. They don't cut through the chaos around them, and it's a shame, because drummers that do dual duty as vocalists are heroes to me. Bias? Yes, but whether it was the mix or the performance, hopefully they'll put the vocals up front next time. Small bits of criticism for an otherwise excellent album. Bone Sickness are full of rot, decay, and host-devouring organisms. Catch them live and check out the album, because when they explode, it's going to be messy.

Alone in the Grave was released by 20 Buck Spin on April 30.

— Doc Schmahl

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