Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Pestilence - Consuming Impulse [1989]

After delivering the awesome "Malleus Maleficarum" only a year earlier, Pestilence would unleash this monolith of death/thrash greatness on Christmas of 1989, and I could only imagine how awesome it would've been to unwrap a "Consuming Impulse" LP and see that near-iconic album cover staring back at me (what an unholy holiday that would've been). The thrashy record that preceded this one was a fantastic foundation for the Dutch quartet to build upon and they did just that, as nearly every aspect of the music on their sophomore is improved from the debut. The riffs, vocals, solos, songwriting, rhythm section and every other intangible part of the horrific music is better than it was on "Malleus Maleficarum," making "Consuming Impulse" a must-have for any fan of death metal, thrash metal or all around violent and gut-wrenching music made to crush bones and fracture skulls. 

I can't pick just a single highlight of this record, as it's impossible to choose between Van Drunen's brilliant vocals and the excellent riff-fest courtesy of Patrick Mameli and Patrick Uterwijk. Van Drunen provided one of his best performances on this album (second only to his amazing work on "Last One on Earth"), as he no longer sounded like the thrash frontman from the prior album, but a man who personifies death. Put together his brand of death growls which sound like someone who is dying from a slow shotgun wound to the chest with song titles like "The Trauma" and "Reduced to Ashes" and you've automatically got a winner. Throw in some of the catchiest riffs around and you've got an instant masterpiece. It also helps that the rhythm section is improved as well. I can actually pick out drum fills that caught my attention throughout the record and I never had a problem with the drumming during faster parts of the music or the fills during slower and heavier moments. Even the inclusion of synths at points doesn't bother me as the break in "Suspended Animation" is one of the most memorable moments of the album. The riffs are brutalizing, the vocals are horrendously perfect and the headbanging inevitably painful, yet entirely satisfying. 

When you kick off a record with a death/thrash classic like "Dehydrated" which features a terrific mix of thrashy and death metal influenced riffs, you've gotta wonder how the band would top that song later on, and then they do with another onslaught in "The Process of Suffocation." Every song features riffs of the "to-die-for" variety; riffs that are instantly ingrained in one's DNA and also induce plenty of whiplash, though no song has more chaotic and violent riffage than "Echoes of Death" which would put Demolition Hammer (the masters of violence) to shame. "Deify Thy Master" also balances out the heavy with the darker material with its sweet tremolo passages and melodies that foreshadowed what was to come later on in the band's constantly evolving discography. "Consuming Impulse" isn't only a vast improvement from the already stellar debut album, but a masterful work that has stood the test of time as one of the best death/thrash full-lengths ever. I can't recommend this album enough, so I'll let the music do the talking for me and if you haven't had the pleasure of listening to Pestilence's finest work, prepare to be reduced to ashes. 

"The Process of Suffocation"
"Suspended Animation"
"Echoes of Death"

Final Rating
Masterpiece [9.5/10]

Pestilence - Malleus Maleficarum [1988]

It probably isn't even necessary to get into any kind of detailed intro for this band. Pestilence is the reason for a couple of massive things in the metal world. Firstly, this is where the death metal god Martin Van Drunen got his start before venturing off onto other amazing projects (including Asphyx, Hail of Bullets and even Bolt Thrower for a bit). The other notable deed from the Dutch masters is the release of this awesome record "Malleus Maleficarum" and the masterpiece that is "Consuming Impulse." This album is the first of what would be a varied discography for Pestilence, as none of their full-lengths sound the same. The debut is definitely the most raw release (and it could even be considered primitive if compared to the later albums) and shows this four-piece band excelling in a genre that was still at a creative peak with other top-notch thrash releases like Morbid Saint's vicious "Spectrum of Death," Coroner's dark, technical thrashterpiece "Punishment For Decadence" and Forbidden's awesome debut "Forbidden Evil." 

I mentioned that this is the band that saw the introduction of my all-time favorite death metal vocalist Martin Van Drunen. However, his vocals on "Malleus Maleficarum" are unlike his tortured growls of his latter work, as they're more suited for a violent thrash group because they're much less throaty or deep, sounding like a mix of Chuck Schuldiner and Jeff Becerra. The riffage, too, is much more thrash-oriented than the band's later albums, but it doesn't affect the quality whatsoever. The wicked riffs that are seemingly littered throughout this album could hang with just about any of the others heard on plenty 1988 releases. The rhythm section didn't really do anything overly impressive, but they did their job well and that's plenty enough to make the music here heavy and headbang-friendly. The lead guitar work is another highlight on this album as the two guitarists showed that they're not just playing brutal riffs and trying to be heavier than the every other band, but that they're capable of writing memorable songs filled with awesome melodies and solos. 

The album-opener "Malleus Maleficarum/Antropormophia" starts the record off on a darker note with a kickass buildup featuring tremolo riffage which eventually leads to some thrashy riffs from hell. "Chemo Therapy" is an absolute curbstomper of a track with its whiplash-inducing riffs and an incredibly catchy chorus. "Parricide" and "Cycle of Existence" are just further proof that Pestilence are indeed masters at riff-crafting, with terrific midpaced sections and vile tremolo bursts. There aren't any complaints that could be made about "Malleus Maleficarum," and while it may not be as good as the record that came after it is still a quality listen and an album that is very worthy of your time. Let's just add this album to the list (and it's a pretty decent size list) of brilliant releases from the Dutch, sit back and bang our heads silly to some of the finest death/thrash to be bestowed upon the metal masses. 

"Chemo Therapy"
"Cycle of Existence"

Final Rating
Awesome [8.7/10] 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Asphyx – Embrace the Death [Recorded: 1990. Released: 1996]

“Embrace the Death” is Asphyx’s true debut album. Although it didn’t see the light of day until 1996 (Thus making it their 4th released album), the songs were actually written in 1988/89 and the album was recorded in 1990. Due to a dodgy label boss pulling a runner with all the recording money, this brilliant album was lost to the void for a few years. Unfortunate, as this is one of their best releases.

One peculiar thing you may notice upon hearing this record is that some of the songs have been released on other Asphyx albums in rearranged and rerecorded forms; some times appearing under a different title. Most of these mentioned tracks are presented in a more primitive and raw form here.

The main thing that I like about “Embrace the Death” is that it showcases Asphyx at their most evil, unpolished and obscure sounding. The rough and unprofessional production job makes it sound more like a demo than a full length, which only adds to the dark and heavy feeling.

Most of the songs tend to stick to a slow-to-mid pace, really focusing on the doomier aspects of the Asphyx signature sound. Sadly, this and “God Cries” are the only two Asphyx albums that featured the vocal and bass talents of Theo Loomans (R.I.P.), a man who brought a very rough and brutal edge to the band. His vocal style didn’t differ too much from Van Drunan, but his input helped to embrace the more barbaric side of Apshyx, which sets “Embrace the Death” apart from the rest of their catalog.

“Embrace the Death” is a forgotten classic and an essential part of any Asphyx collection. Or any old-school death metal collection, really.

Embrace the Death
The Sickened Dwell
Crush the Cenotaph

Final Rating: Awesome [8/10]