OPPRESSOR was formed in Chicago in 1991, and despite having a relatively short existence (8 years), they’ve released three albums and have (unwittingly?) inspired a subgenre of Death Metal. The band never really made it big (well, by Death Metal standards), and eventually the band dissolved. Three of the members of OPPRESSOR had previously formed SOIL with a member of BROKEN HOPE simply as a side project. The members of this side project would eventually abandon their other bands and focus solely on SOIL, which has enjoyed a fair amount of success thus far.
OPPRESSOR unfortunately wound up being one of the (many many many...) bands that never got the recognition they deserved, so there was little interest in the band after the break-up. Thus, their albums are now out of print. Some of these songs have been made available on CD again due to the kind people at Metal Music/MVD Audio releasing a compilation of songs from the OPPRESSOR’s three albums. I would have preferred that each album get the re-release treatment, but that’s just because I’m a completist nerd that hates compilations and “best-of’s.
So, “The Solstice Of Agony And Corrosion” showcases straight away what OPPRESSOR was extremely good at. The band played an ugly style of Technical Death Metal, with the emphasis more on the guttural vocals and evil, brutal riffs than on the amount of notes being played. OPPRESSOR knows how to construct angular and quasi-melodic riffs with just the right amount of melody mixed in with dissonance to give a great balance between the accessible and the adventurous while still maintaining this ugliness to the music. What’s great about these guys is that the music is pretty catchy and all, but said catchiness does not come at a cost to the heaviness nor the band’s sense of exploration. The melodies twist and turn in unexpected ways and the songs just go off into various other musical territories before converging back to the main structure. The one problem I have from the musical perspective is the vocalist. It’s done in a pretty common mid-ranged Death Metal growl. He’s competent but nothing to write home about. A better vocal performance would have put this over the top for me, but as it stands, he was the weak link of the band. Oh yea, and there are two covers stuck on the end of the compilation: MOTLEY CRUE’s “Looks That Kill” and Ozzy Osbourne’s “Over The Mountain”. The covers are alright, but I frankly never saw the point in adding COVER SONGS onto compilation discs.
Minor nitpicks aside, this is a great way to familiarize yourself with one of the forgotten yet awesome bands of the early 90s Death Metal movement. OPPRESSOR never got their due, but hopefully this compilation will give them the recognition they deserve.
Highest recommendation, ESPECIALLY if you fancy yourself a Death Metal fan.
(Online April 24, 2010)