200 Stab Wounds: “We didn’t know how f*cked-up the album cover was going to be!”

200 Stab Wounds are awash with gore and gristle. They’re also one of the most exciting death metal bands on the planet. Singer/guitarist Steve Buhl gives us an autopsy of the horror and humour that make up their world, his surprising musical roots, and the optimum number of times one should get punctured…

200 Stab Wounds: “We didn’t know how f*cked-up the album cover was going to be!”
Nick Ruskell
Bailey Olinger

“It’s the perfect number of stab wounds!"

Steve Buhl has an instinct for death metal. The name of his band, 200 Stab Wounds, was just a phrase that came up as a suggested song title in a previous outfit, cunningly taking in a nod to Florida legends Malevolent Creation's banger Multiple Stab Wounds. Like a gory Goldilocks, as he says, it’s optimal: 200 Stab Wounds.

"A-hundred-and-thirty stab wounds sounds stupid, but 300 doesn’t have the same ring to it," he muses. "Two-hundred is just right – it’s a crazy amount of stab wounds. They're definitely dead at that point.”

Similarly, the title of their killer new album, Manual Manic Procedures, was an offhand suggestion during a soundcheck that just felt perfect – a Carcass-like mix of twisted surgery and complete filth. “It’s like the dude in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, cutting people’s faces off and sewing them together,” smiles the singer. “It’s dirty, man.”

He’s got loads of stories like this. The album’s cover, a painting of some poor sod on an operating table, giblets on show for all to see, having his eyeball taken off him, looking very much the recipient of well over 200 stab wounds, is disgustingly apt. Steve says they sent the idea to the artist and went with what they got back. Although he admits he wasn’t expecting quite so many innards.

“It always ends up being some super slimy, gory shit, but we didn't know how fucked-up this one was going to be! The last one we did [Slave To The Scalpel, 2021], it looked more comic book-y. It was pretty fucking gory, but not where you'd get sick off of it. But when I saw this one, I was like, ‘Oh, shit! That’s disgusting!’”

Meanwhile, the provenance of the title of one of the album’s highlights Release The Stench – a fiendishly simple concentration of death metal’s amusing, violent bluntness that rival’s Cannibal Corpse’s Hammer Smashed Face – came about in similar, if more anti-social, circumstances to almost everything else the band do.

“Our drummer Owen [Pooley], he took his shoes off in the van one day,” he laughs. “He's like, ‘I gotta release the stench!’ Okay, that's a song title. Write that down.”

This habit of striking while the scalpel is hot and listening to your gut as well as singing about having them ripped out (“We don’t take anything too seriously,” he shrugs) has done 200 Stab Wounds very well so far. Alongside Gatecreeper, Frozen Soul, Sanguisugabogg and Undeath, they’re part of a wave of new bands reanimating death metal’s corpse, with many touting them as the best of the bunch. All of his peers, Steve says, have their own thing going on. For his own band, it just seems to be having a knack for channelling the genre’s gory spirit.

“We're not really breaking any boundaries. We're not really reinventing the wheel in any way. We’re not super-technical like Sanguisugabogg, who are fucking crazy. But we just think what we do sounds cool. It’s the kind of death metal that’s fun to play.”

Though hailed today as one of the scene’s brightest lights, and having jumped to powerhouse label Metal Blade (a state of affairs the frontman says hasn’t changed the band’s initially modest ambitions, but that, “If they wanted us out of all the bands they could get, we must be doing something right”), Steve’s entry to the music world was very different.

“I was into punk when I was in elementary school,” he says. “There was like a local scene around where I was living at the time with mixed-genre shows where you had a punk band, and then an emo-type band, and then you have a fucking hardcore band, and then a straight-up grind band.”

It wasn’t just the shows that were like this. Seemingly everyone involved wanted to be in every type of band they could, forming groups together on different instruments for each one. Steve and future 200 Stab Wounds bassist Ezra Cook had a grind band in which he played drums and sang, then an emo one where he switched to guitar. In all this, death metal wasn’t really a thing. Yet.

“I remember I went to go see Slayer. I knew who they were, everyone knows that, but I didn't really like them, because it was just too extreme for me at the time. I was used to beatdowns and two-steps. But when I saw them live, I understood it a lot more.”

Looking up death metal online, it was a similar thing. The covers of albums by Deicide and Suffocation were intriguing, but musically, “I was back to square one, like with Slayer.” Eventually, a friend showed him the slightly catchier and groovier sounds of Scandinavian bands like Dismember. “I got balls deep in that,” Steve remembers.

If at first it was too much, in 2024 Steve and his band represent a bloody rebirth of the things that made those bands so exciting. The titles, the art, the lyrics, the riffs, the vibe, it’s all death metal done by people who know what they’re up to, with a fresh, psychotic energy that makes the best of death metal so terrifyingly exciting. And while Steve waxes about horror movies and his old collection of VHS video nasties, there’s slightly more to 200 Stab Wounds than there may first appear.

In February last year, a freight train travelling through East Palestine, Ohio derailed, sending 38 carriages carrying hazardous materials off the track. Some blazed away for days, others were set on fire in “controlled burns” by the fire service, a move intended to enable them to sort the mess out quicker, but which resulted in so much hydrogen chloride and phosgene (a substance so toxic it was used as a weapon during World War One, killing almost 100,000 people) being released into the air that residents within two kilometres were evacuated. This pleasant chemical cocktail also made its way into the Erie River, and thus the state’s water supply.

The incident happened less than an hour from where Steve and Ezra lived at the time. It’s an incident that inspired the song Ride The Flatline, also featuring Code Orange’s Jami Morgan.

“That shit was scary because that got into our rivers and main water supply,” Steve recalls. “We couldn't even drink our fucking tap water, and they didn't even really suggest boiling it because it was so fucking bad. I don't know if our water supply’s fucked up to this day. I live in Georgia now, but I'm sure people in the future are going to get really sick from all that. I'm sure years and years from now, people are going to come up with some sort of illness and probably fucking die from that shit, and they're not even thinking about it right now.”

Grim as such a future may be, 200 Stab Wounds’ present is as bright as a surgeon’s blade. In Ohio, Steve says the metal community is “tight knit” and that there’s a sizeable crowd of familiar faces. But when they play, suddenly a whole load of new ones come out.

“It’s crazy. I was talking to a buddy of mine, and he's like, ‘Whenever y’all come to town and you guys play, I don't fucking know any of these people.’ But that’s so cool. When we play in Florida, it’s all the old dudes that come out, all the old heads, but if we go to Colorado, there will be children – literal children – at the show. In New Jersey when we toured with Dying Fetus, I was talking to some kids, like 15, all in our shirts, telling me they wanted to start a band like us. That blows my mind!”

200 Stab Wounds, then: following their guts, helping reinvigorate death metal, and bringing gallons of fresh blood to the party. Carrion, gents.

200 Stab Wounds’ album Manual Manic Procedures is out now via Metal Blade. The band tour the UK with Gatecreeper and Enforced in autumn, including Damnation Festival on November 4.

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