Back in ’88 these guys, who still went by the INCUBUS moniker at that time, delivered what is truly one of the most intense Thrash albums out there in the form of “Serpent Temptation”. Another album, “Beyond The Unknown”, followed swiftly before the band entered a long period of inactivity during the 90s before reappearing under the name OPPROBRIUM and releasing a third album just before the turn of the millennium. Well, here we are 20 years after their classic debut and not only has their chosen moniker changed but some serious musical changes are also evident all over this album.
“Mandatory Evac” (great album title, btw) is a full-on Death Metal album and thus a far cry from their sound of old but that’s not the major problem here – that would be the extremely raw production. This album sounds underproduced to the core, unmixed and way too scraggy to be taken seriously. It’s cool in the sense that it makes you feel like you’re locked up with the band in a smoke-filled rehearsal room where they are bashing away at their instruments mere inches away but it does cause many musical nuances here to be lost in the din. The guys sound ‘sloppy’ but in a weird “live” kind of way, and ultimately I have to state that this is a sufficiently intense record – in your face, loud and uncomplicated. Aside from the mostly one-dimensional US Death Metal sound of the songs a few efforts on here deserve special mention: “Never Found” has a strange Black Metal feel to it (primarily in the chainsaw riffs), while tracks like “Incident” and “Compulsive Worrier” are forceful Death/Thrash numbers with just the right amount of subtle groove thrown in. “Sick Of This” is especially great and I just love the galloping rhythm section and HC-ish chorus that go well with the inexplicable Black Metal feel of the song. Why the band chose to include these weird Black Metal songs in what is otherwise a straightforward Death Metal album is beyond me but it makes for some welcome variations in tone.
I’m really quite undecided on this album... It’s certainly no classic and it doesn’t even hold a candle to their earlier works but it does have a special honest feel to it and the band sound energetic enough to warrant some attention. If you prefer Death Metal in the vein of MALEVOLENT CREATION’s “The Ten Commandments” with a few BM touches here and there then this album will probably do the trick for you, despite the truly unwelcoming production job.
(Online January 25, 2009)