In today's recent obsession with gore and serial killers, it's truly a rarity in Death Metal circles for a band to delve into the subject of spiritual horror or some other non-physical violence mode of story pursuits. But during Death Metal's gradual evolution in the early 90s it wasn't all about reliving every single detail of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre", particularly insofar as the growing European answer to the Florida scene was concerned. While much of the rage was going on in Sweden by 1991, there were a few other adherents outside of the Stockholm area that were building upon the creation of POSSESSED, DEATH and company, and MESSIAH stands as one of the more obscure ones, but also a very effective one.
In several respects, this album carrier some heavy commonalities with DEATH’S "Human", though it's a bit more complex and revisits familiar thrash territory that is perhaps a bit closer to "Leprosy" at times. Perhaps the chief reason for the comparison to the former album is the extremely polished production job and generally chunky yet smooth guitar sound. Bring along for the ride some otherworldly keyboard and depressive acoustic guitar interludes (most of them centering on the instrumental "Northern Command") and it becomes pretty clear that this band is on a bit of a different wavelength than the gore-obsessed crop that CANNIBAL CORPSE helped to reap, though there is a fairly horrific tale of man vs. beast violence in "Weena" that sort of points in that direction a little.
The overall sound of "Choir Of Horrors" is definitely still strongly rooted in the mid 80s SLAYER influences that are frequently cited by the prime movers of the early Death Metal scene. A few select riffs on the opening title song have a melodic contour that is a bit closer to POSSESSED and SEPULTURA and occasionally seems to lean towards a quasi-Black Metal sound, and not only due to the usage of Gregorian Chant during the intro. Vocalist Andy Kaina is perhaps the one area where this band gets a little overtly derivative, as he sounds like a near perfect impersonation of Chuck Schuldiner, but he does a solid job at providing a vile counterpart to the largely methodical riff work and drumming.
While arguably not the most impressive thing to come out of the early 90s given all the exciting things happening both in the U.S. and Sweden, this definitely has a charm to it that will not disappoint fans of the likes of DISMEMBER, AUTOPSY, and middle era DEATH. It hearkens back to a time when Death Metal was about more than just vocalizing incomprehensibly about mangled human anatomy and simply churned out hypnotic, redundant guitar lines with little to any detailing to speak of. Don't expect the sort of riveting fits of individuality heard out of NOCTURNUS and DARKTHRONE from this time period, but expect something with a respectable level of depth and brutality that is largely missing from Death Metal today.
(Online July 27, 2013)