From the moment “Dead Without Skullpan” comes jigger-picking centre stage, you know that this album is going to be heads down, no nonsense, ear-bashing fun. Nothing original here, no deviations, nothing to get you shouting from the hilltops and fuck all to complain about either.
The drilling of Death Metal combined with a gouging of Grindcore ensures that SMIRNOFF maintain a shin kicking freshness throughout “The Deadly Return,” extremity is the remedy for your ills and the the ingredients in this tonic comprise of surging speed and a mid-pace skewered with lancing of twisted lead scrawl. Most tracks balance the genres with the Grind providing most of the gattling gunning but some tracks are weighted one way or another, “Lies” being loaded with more of the Death and so sounds less fluid than others but benefits from more judder, and you like that at the back, don't you?
This is very much one of those stop/start affairs, or more accurately, a collection of hold on to your hat interspersed with polish your boots. When gripping your chapeau, you have to watch the flames because some of the velocities are incendiary, though rarely a firestorm, when spitting on the leather, it gives you ample opportunity to stretch those neck muscles to these thugs with the chugs. Despite the heavy hectoring, there is a sense of humour running as an undercurrent beneath the carnage, I suppose with a name like SMIRNOFF it's to be expected but this definitely not a piss-take, these guys are still seriously intent on leaving you with bruised kidneys.
Whilst the album generally progresses swimmingly, a couple of tracks sound a bit strained, particularly “Thoughts Of A Mentally Deranged” but by and large redemption isn't far away and as soon as the speed comes spilling back in like someone's dropped a box of ball bearings down the stairs, everything is tickety boo again. Some of the breakneck spits more fire than elsewhere, so the oxy-acetylene enhancement to the lead strikes on “Open Graves” will be used by the local vagrants to roast the out of date sausages they've nicked out of the butchers skip, better than charcoal. The slower sections have a ramshackle groove to them but remain sharp edged nonetheless, they remain fairly brief and and so the to and fro between the tempos continues keeping it lively.
When it comes to the battering, it's no surprise that the drums are emphatic in their attempts to cause some serious damage, that said they are bedded in well enough to not overwhelm, playing it straight as they concentrate on the clatter, they also avoid resorting to all out blast, maintaining a rhythmic balance to compliment the pace of the other instruments. There is a bass in there that sulks moodily, delivering a flat twang that you sometimes have to hunt for, especially with headphones on but when it is evident is a right rib poker.
All in all “The Deadly Return” is an enjoyable look back to a band that were capable beating your bonce and who deserve kudos for managing to get Scooby Doo to provide vocals. My regards to Shaggy.
(Online August 24, 2009)