When most guys get together to blow off steam with their buds, the result is usually arm bruises and hangovers. When musicians from the elite metal units Baroness, Alabama Thunderpussy, Municipal Waste, the Last Van Zant, and Beaten Back to Pure are on furlough, they make blunt-trauma death-metal albums under the name Birds of Prey.
Which isn’t to say that arm bruises and hangovers are absent from the Southern metal group’s second album, Sulfur & Semen. It doesn’t take a lyric sheet to tell that charcoal-spewing vocalist Ben Hogg croaks about some pretty inadvisable shit throughout the album. The song titles “Mentoring the Mongoloids (Return to the Attic),” “To My Victims’ Families,” and “Overfucked and Underage” should be all the proof you need that Birds of Prey employ the fifteen-year-old male id as their only font of inspiration.
You could spend all day criticizing Sulfur & Semen’s cartoonishly offensive lyrics without quite getting it right — just like the even viler debut, 2006’s Weight of the Wound, Sulfur’s crudeness is what makes it so engaging, and that applies to the music, too. Subtlety and atmosphere get punted, and instead we get ramrod death ’n’ roll, devoid of frills and nearly free of solos, with a few handfuls of deep-fried Southern groove, a teaspoon of doom, and a pinch of d-beat punk for taste. It’s too bad that Birds of Prey’s permanent drummer, Dave Witte, had to sit Sulfur & Semen out (guitarist Erik Larson fills in), but even without him the band sounds tight and energized. They play simple, not sloppy.
A Birds of Prey album isn’t the first place anyone would look for an Iron & Wine cover, but there they go, donating a big sack o’ balls to the unreleased Sam Beam original “Show Him the Ground.” Hogg even transforms Neil Young’s “Old Man” into a hoarse battle cry on opener “Bleed, Blister or Cum.” Two minor eyebrow-raisers on an album that offers no surprises but plenty of filthy, dumb fun.