200 Stab Wounds : Manic Manual Procedures

200 Stab Wounds Manic Manual Procedures review

At just the halfway point, 2024 has already seen an impressive crop of death metal releases, and Cleveland’s 200 Stab Wounds have carved their way to the top of this heap. Less than a year after Metal Blade reissued their 2021 debut Slave to the Scalpel, the band has found the time to create something even more nuanced and dynamic in their songwriting. That first album did not find 200 Stab Wounds separating themselves from pillars of North American death metal like Cannibal Corpse, but with Manual Manic Procedures they not only execute an impressive pounding but establish a greater sense of their own identity. 

Their new approach to songwriting is meticulous, full of subtle punches and attention to detail to create a creepier sonic experience. 200 Stab Wounds really go for it here, and it’s inspiring to hear. The first three songs—”Hands of Eternity,” “Gross Abuse” and the title track—kick the album off with a one-two-three punch that arrives as the most thrilling open to a death metal album this year. It’s not until the fourth song, “Release the Stench,” that the band returns to the simpler, more barbaric sound of their previous release. But just one track later, with “Led to the Chamber/Liquified,” they offer an unexpected shift in dynamics via an eerie, atmospheric instrumental.

Not a single song here goes over five minutes, some of the credit is due to the the speed at which they’re playing when it comes to a thrasher like “Flesh From Within.” But it also means they are using restraint to avoid overindulgence and sprawling things out. Despite the low guttural vocals, there is more Slayer influence on this album than Cannibal Corpse. The use of clean guitar tones to add a creepy feel is highly effective and offers a dynamic contrast. Ezra Cook’s bass tone is prominent in the mix, not only adding density to the pack and more of a punch but creating an ’80s thrash feel. Likewise, Steve Buhl’s vocals are purposeful and do not feel like the obligatory growl injected where a human sound should be.

Buhl and Raymond Macdonald’s guitar tones are cutting and with the perfect balance of gain, allowing the listener to hear the actual notes rather than an over-processed throbbing. There are just enough blasting sequences to be compelling without growing numbing. The final song on Manic Manual Procedures, “Parricide” finds the groove factor reaching epic proportions, as the chug takes on a life of its own. The lyrics are about blowing up a retirement home, but with a deeper and darker look at the societal problems surrounding senior care, showcasing a level of social conscience that can sometimes get lost in music this aggressive and abrasive. This is certainly the album for other bands to beat. Manic Manual Procedures establishes 200 Stab Wounds as a top-tier death metal act, but their songs are catchy enough to be appreciated by those who aren’t devotees of this particular niche. As it stands, this sounds a lot like the death metal album of the year.

Label: Metal Blade

Year: 2024

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200 Stab Wounds Manic Manual Procedures review

200 Stab Wounds : Manic Manual Procedures

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