Chesapeake Bay area Death Metal - Dying Fetus

Sean Beasley, the low frequency pusher of the mighty Dying Fetus talks about the unlikeliest place to hold a death metal festival, their storied history and of course everyone’s favorite subject – politics.

Having just finished their tour with the legendary Napalm Death, Dying Fetus conquered Australia with the ferocity and aplomb a grind band should wield, planting their flag in almost every capital city in the Great Southern Land; unusual for a relatively small extreme metal band in these days of tight budgets across the board. Even more rare is a metal band coming back to Australia after a gap of only a year; the last time playing with the “Abbreviated” Summer Slaughter tour, sharing the bill with Necrophagist and The Faceless.

Bassist and Vocalist Sean Beasley is a recent addition to the band – relatively speaking as founding guitarist John Gallagher is still on the roster and has been since 1991 – but is unfamiliar with the Australian metal territory. The Summer Slaughter was unequivocally regarded as a mini-festival. Sitting on the front porch of his house in coastal Delaware, in his view, it didn’t really feel that way.

“Well, there were only four bands on the bill,” Sean says in a gruff, masculine tone. “It was kind of like a normal tour for us. I mean, the Summer Slaughter in [North America] there were fourteen bands on the bill. That’s a lot of drum sets,” he laughs.

So no one thought to share?

“No, because people were jumping on and off the tour,” he explains. “So yeah, it was a real mess.”

Their most recent album, Descend into Depravity was received warmly by fans (slightly more lukewarmly by critics) and did really well in terms of sales – but as an almost constantly touring band, they don’t take much notice until after the fact.

“The last time we were in Australia was when we recorded that album. We were touring a lot when it first came out – for the first couple of months it did really well. Better than anything we had in the past. We’ve been so busy since then so I haven’t really kept track how it’s doing now. But yeah – for the first couple of months it did really well. We even made the Billboard chart which was just shocking.

“Usually you don’t find out until the end of your touring cycle for the album and start writing for the next one. In the Spring, we’ll be writing a new album. That’s the kind of time you kind of reflect on the last one.”

Coming back to Australia, Sean is an aficionado of the older grindcore bands Down Under.

“I’m a fan of the older grind stuff from down there but it’s not my favorite. I’m definitely more into death metal more so than grindcore. I mean, the first bands that come to mind is obviously Psycroptic and the Berserker,” he says, laughing. “It’s probably what a lot of people say.”

Reflecting with fans is another past time for Sean and the band, priding themselves on hanging out with concertgoers after shows from all stripes be it grind or death metal fans – well, hopefully.

“It all depends on what day of the week it is,” he says, half-jokingly. “But most of the time we’re there checking out the bands at the club. Usually everybody hangs out afterwards. It all depends on where and when. We’re usually all drifting around one way or the other. It doesn’t matter what kind of style it is.”

“There’s not much of a division between death metal and grindcore – especially not live. Every band has a different energy live. You just never know. But that’s for fans to decide. Oh, and people that spend their time on [internet] forums,” he laughs. “They can put everybody into a slot where they think they belong. But live? I don’t think it matters. Unless it’s drastically different, you see it in the crowd. Otherwise I don’t see it.”

Dying Fetus are known for their outspoken political views, a rarity for extreme metal that focuses on horror or fantastical themes. Coming on the tail end of a fairly staid and uninspiring election for us at home, Sean explains the origin of their social commentary that has been praised by members in“activist” bands such as System of a Down and Rage Against the Machine.

“I guess it started with Jason [Netherton, original bassist and vocalist] on the Killing on Adrenaline album that was involved with politics. Then they were almost all about politics in Destroy the Opposition. Ever since that album John wanted to keep the political themes in the songs. But at the same time he didn’t want it to rule us. I think that’s what we have to do. We want to try our hand at different subjects but keep it as part of the band.

“It’s always been interesting for me to write lyrics about something different besides gore and your basic [cliché] subjects. But people sometimes stay away from it because you don’t want to polarize your crowd. People might not like you because of what you might say in your lyrics. ”

Although Maryland wasn’t really renowned for its death metal scene up until recently with the establishment of the Maryland Death Festival (MDF) held in Baltimore, Maryland still isn’t the “hub” for death metal that many perceive it to be.

“The Maryland scene isn’t that great,” he laments. “Sometimes it’ll be pretty good but other times you won’t play for a while. I mean, it’s just like Delaware. We’ve never even played in Delaware. The MDF became a ‘thing’ but the bands that play on it aren’t local. I wouldn’t hardly know anyone at the show. Our practice space is about fifteen minutes away from where the MDF is held.

“It’s a great show and it brings more attention to the state but it’s not really a hub for death metal. There’s a lot of young bands out there, but you never know.”

We can only wait and see if Baltimore's budding death metal scene blossoms or goes bust, but with Dying Fetus as guides, there's hope yet.