Reviews

THANATOS - Global Purification

CENTURY MEDIA 2014

The Netherlands-based Death and Thrash Metal group Thanatos formed back in 1984, earning the distinction of being one of the first Dutch “extreme metal” bands to emerge. However, it took a total of five demos and the self-released live album Official Live Tape 1987 before finally being picked up by Shark Records for their 1990 debut full-length effort Emerging from the Netherworlds. Sadly, after another demo and a follow-up titled Realm of Ecstasy, they had called it a day.All was silent until Thanatos was reactivated by founding vocalist and guitarist Stephan Gebédi (former Legion) in 1999. He was joined by fellow Hail of Bullets bandmates Paul Baayens (former Asphyx) on guitar and Theo van Eekelen (former Houwitser), as well as Sinister drummer Aad Kloosterwaard. The latter two eventually parted ways, finding bassist Marco de Bruin (former Funeral Winds) and drummer Yuri Rinkel (former Liar of Golgotha) filling out the line-up to what we have today. With a number of major and side releases under their belt up to this point, we are given their sixth full-length effort, Global Purification. But will it capture the listener’s attention and refuse to let go, or is this one of the band’s least appealing offerings to date?
Global Purification does have a fairly crisp digital production quality to it, but it in no way hinders the pissed off energy on display. “Global Purification” greets the listener with a mixture of pissed off socially charged aggression on par with Benumb. Frantic fretting with a deep, rich distortion works with the rather loud bass guitar and fantastic sounding drum kit to unleash a brutalizing assault that will get your blood pumping immediately as the slight melodies being woven in the aforementioned chords relay a creepy, dismal environment. “World Jihad” is another furious piece that is as flawlessly volatile as any Vader song. There’s some rebellious Punk elements that can be picked up on from time to time, but it’s the solid grooves during the last third, as well as the guitar solo, that make headbanging along an involuntary impulse you won’t find yourself fighting in the least.

“Nothing Left” keeps that grim atmosphere alive with haunting leads and a slower Death Metal progression at the start. What follows blends together catchy unsettling hooks for the chorus, and punishing fast paced musicianship for the main verses that try to recapture the earlier visceral spirit, but sadly don’t quite reach that level. That’s not to say this is a bad performance though. The bass kicks tear through the mix in the former, growling vocals accentuate the pounding intensity of the latter, and the epic Heavy Metal guitar solo My Dying Bride would swoon over acting as the conclusion manage to make up for it.

And then you have some that are just gritty throwbacks to the eighties sound of the two genres. “The Murder of Innocence” hammers away with a notable technicality on par with the most intense of Annihilator songs and violent tendencies of a Phobia recording. The song itself just sounds dirty, both musically and lyrically, until the half way point where the leads heading into the eighties echoing Hard Rock guitar solo take a brief and interesting turn towards a Space Rock output thanks to the effect utilized before bludgeoning you once more, throwing in one of the most primal screams you could ever hope to grace as powerfully destructive an album as this.

Of course, Global Purification does have its share of songs that don’t quite have as strong an impact, such as “Queen of Gore”, “Bastion of Blasphemy” and “The Demonized Minority”, but for the most part they are still really good overall. “Feeding the War Machine”, however, doesn’t really have that much of a lasting appeal to it. In fact, while still catchy thanks to the deeper chugging and well timed bits of technicality in the guitars, it’s a fairly safe track that feels like a restrained Slayer performance that doesn’t really go anywhere until the slower paced Middle Eastern elements kick in at the guitar solo about two-and-a-half minutes in. This is even followed by a raspier vocal performance that leads to an undramatic surge of additional hostility that still comes off as being incredibly held back.

Aside “Feeding the War Machine” and the small few that aren’t quite as punishing, Global Purification is still one hell of a Death/Thrash Metal album. Thanatos perfectly channel the raw, angry spirit of the eighties, the one that said they have a something to say and the passion to back it up, with the level of energy and hatred a number of top-notch Dutch Metal bands in both or either style have made that region of Metal well known for. It’s also just fantastic hearing it all come from the pioneers of that area’s movement of extremity after all this time, which will instantly bring a smile to the face of the listener. If you’re a long time fan, Thanatos simply once again do not fail to pound your skull into the most abrasive of bricks walls repeatedly, while newcomers will instantly pledge their loyalty to the group from the very first spin, and well into the countless repeat visits that the quality of Global Purification‘s violence ensures.

APOCH


   

NUM SKULL - Ritually Abused - Re-Released

RELAPSE 2014 RE-RELEASE

There have been a few band in the peak times of thrash metal, that have been quite good, but were drowning in the big amount of thrashers. Nowadays it can be refreshing to listen to some of these bands - esp. if there are re-issues from their records.

One of those bands is Num Skull. The guys from Winthrop Harbor, Illinois released their debut album "Ritually abused" in 1988. The line-up Skip McGullam (v), Rob Charrier (b), Jeff McGullam (d), Tom Brander (g) and Eric Seiller (g) plays straight-forward thrash metal. Eventhough the album is a re-issue it has the oldschool charm which got lost nowadays so often. Of course doesn't have the best sound, but that is who thrash albums in the 80's have been. Still each the production and the mix are transparent. The raw enegry won over technical finesse.

When I heard the album, and I have to admit that I missed the original version as well, I was often reminded to Slayer, Dark Angel and Possessed. Uncompromising songs with screaming guitars, breaks and some great mosh parts like in "Death and innocence". The only small point of critic is that the songs are similar to each other and are exchangable. However, I enjoyed listening to the album.

It seems that Relapse records is nowadays releasing some of those pearls. The first one was Death's "Leprosy" followed now by Num Skull. Let's see what's next. Mosh on.

HMC


   

Pig Destroyer - Mass & Volume EP

RELAPSE 2014

In 2006, when Pig Destroyer recorded “Mass & Volume” and “Red Tar”—two songs that didn’t make it onto their astounding 2007 album Phantom Limb—they had no way of knowing those songs would one day become a memorial to a dead friend. But following the passing of Relapse Records staffer Pat Egan in 2013, the progressive grindcore outfit bundled those two orphaned tracks as the Mass & Volume EP, sold it digitally, and donated the proceeds to Egan’s family. A year and a half later, Mass & Volume is seeing the light of day as an official, physical release. As a gesture of kindness to a departed comrade—Pig Destroyer have been a cornerstone of Relapse’s roster since their 2000 split with Isis—it’s beautiful. As a doom-ridden detour from the group’s typical blitzkrieg of dense, hyper-literate grind, it’s downright ugly.

Unlike the frantic Phantom Limb—or Book Burner, Pig Destroyer’s intervening album—Mass & Volume is slow. As in, glacier-dragging-a-fallen-planetoid slow. In that sense, it draws from the dour, down-tuned slither of doom metal, but it’s a far cry from either the antediluvian groove of Pentagram or the antiheroic songcraft of recent outfits like Lycus and Pallbearer. The EP’s first song, “Mass & Volume”, is clearly the sound of a grind band unhinging its jaw to accommodate the proportions of doom; most Pig Destroyer tracks do their duty in under three minutes, while “Mass & Volume” weighs in at over 19. When Pig Destroyer decides to play doom, however, it’s best to assume it won’t go unexamined. All the requisite components are there: hovering feedback, threatening riffs, and chasms of pregnant space. But frontman J. R. Hayes unfurls his unintelligible tongue as if it’s the red carpet to hell, a far more alien delivery than most doom bands, and guitarist Scott Hull is just as apt to let his instrument drone, disintegrate, and ultimately eat its own tail as he is to actually summon a chord.

“Red Tar” is only three times as long as your average Pig Destroyer song, but those six and a half minutes are milked of every conceivable ounce of sludge. Here the EP finally resembles a Pig Destroyer 45 played on 33, plain and simple, with none of the compositional mutation on display in “Mass & Volume”. It’s the perfect complement; tighter and more coherent—inasmuch as Hayes and Hull’s mutual assured deconstruction could ever be called coherent—the song creeps from plateau to plateau, leaving a trail of viscera in its wake. “Grief crawls in the shadow of time/ Try to keep in mind/ It’s all finite,” Hayes grunts in existential agony. Instead of seeming like some noble savage, he’s a trapped animal, snarling and soon to be gutted.

The fact that “Mass & Volume” and “Red Tar” were amputated from the final version of Phantom Limb lends the two songs their own sick humor and grotesque gravity—qualities that, not coincidentally, Pig Destroyer specialize in. It’s left to the listener’s imagination to guess how appropriate the EP might be as a tribute to Egan. That shouldn’t matter, of course; a good EP is a good EP, and Mass & Volume fits that bill. Yet the circumstances surrounding any piece of music are not separable from the experience of hearing it, and that’s how it should be. Pig Destroyer has long trafficked in the absurdism of mortality, the profundity of body-horror, and the contortion of metal tropes themselves. There’s a perverse soulfulness at the core of their music, though, and in slowing their berserk onslaught to a vulnerable slither, Hayes and crew have turned Mass & Volume into something heart-stoppingly sorrowful. Pig Destroyer, poignant? The notion isn’t as strange—nor, as the EP demonstrates, as forced—as one might think. Mass & Volume barely moves, but it’s definitely moving.

Jason Heller


   

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