Hmm, 2007 is already shaping up to be a pretty good year for Death Metal fiends, with IMMOLATION, ANGELCORPSE, NILE and VITAL REMAINS all releasing new material. While we’re waiting for the new ANGELCORPSE and NILE to hit the streets (and ears) the new releases of the other two bands mentioned here will have to tide us over. IMMOLATION’s “Shadows In The Light” is already kicking my sorry ass and the new VITAL REMAINS, well, is not… Not for the most part anyway.
I’ve been awaiting this new album with bated breath since their last effort (“Dechristianize”, like you didn’t know…) was quite excellent. Early word on the street and the Web hasn’t been too positive regarding this album and it dented my expectations a bit. After sitting through “Icons Of Evil” I can see why many feel disillusioned by this album. It is a very formulaic album, plain and simple. Since this is the approach Messrs, Benton, Lazaro and Suzuki took, I will oblige them and follow suit with this review.
The good: first off, contrary to what Arve stated, the sound is terrific. Eric Rutan is fast becoming a knob-twiddler of the highest degree, and it is not an exaggeration to state that he is following in the footsteps of producers like Andy Sneap and Scott Burns as a masterful Metal producer. The guitars are well accentuated, the vocals balanced and the drums pack a mighty punch. Secondly, the guitar soloing is surb. Dave Suzuki really pushes out the boat in this regard. Thirdly, the experimental touches, sparse as they may be on this album, are very effective in adding touches of class to the brutal assault. Case and point: the emotive acoustic strains in “Reborn… The Upheaval Of Nihility”. Finally, when they allow some Thrashy guitar riffing to creep into the blasting the results are devastating. Just listen to the deadly guitar-drum duels in “Shrapnel Embedded Flesh” (1:50) and “In Infamy” (2:04) – excellent!
The bad: the overriding problem with this album is its one dimensional character. Most of these songs follow the same formula of intense blasting for about 3 minutes, then slowing down with some decent Doom-y sections giving way to very melodically proficient soloing, then the blasting commences yet again before a final round of solos (more often than not too similar to the previous ones) round things off. Yes, it’s brutal as all hell and technically flawless but it comes off as sterile and unimaginative. Secondly, the songs are too long. I have no problem with songs that pass the 8 minute mark but on here it is simply unnecessary, as the guys expend all their ideas in the first 3-5 minutes of every song but then, for some bizarre reason, just keep on dicking about for another 3-4 minutes without really adding anything worthwhile in those extra minutes. Finally, even though I praised the soloing I must also admit that it is overdone in places and borders on pomp.
That’s about it really. This is an album of many highs and many lows; for the most part it feels like the band was on autopilot, and while some will argue that a VITAL REMAINS on autopilot is still better than most acts out there, the banality of it all gets on my nerves very soon. Still, songs like “Reborn…”, “Shrapnel…” and the YNGWIE MALMSTEEN cover (“Disciples Of Hell”) are excellent pieces of sonic terror.
Maybe I feel let down by this album because the latest offering of the related DEICIDE bests this album by a mile, simply due to its more compact nature. Ralph Santolla’s solos on “The Stench Of Redemption” were showy for sure but he kept them in check; here Suzuki does not. The great songs are REALLY great but there’s just too much excess fat on here. At the end of the day the guys have just opted to play it too safe, and if there’s one thing Death Metal should not be it’s safe. Amen.
Phew, now I can go rest my fingers…
(Online July 6, 2007)