Feel free to submit a vote in the Hall of Judgement poll around the metal credentials of this release Shezma:
If you highlight the text & click on the REMOVE FONT STYLE button (i.e. to the right of the UNDERLINE button) it'll fix the font size issue for ya. It happens when copying text from other applications rather than typing directly into this one.
For the record, Fredrik is Meshuggah’s guitarist. Jens Kidman is their front man.
Wonderful review Xephyr. I can really relate to it. I always look forward to you getting into these moods.
"An Epic Dream Of Desire" was actually the title track from Mournful Congregation's second demo from 1995. I was tape trading with the band from their very early days & they sent me over that one in exchange for Neuropath's "Nefarious Vivisection" demo from the same year.
The Swedish death metal guitar tone is all about taking a Boss HM-2 distortion pedal & turning all four knobs up to 10. It's really that simple. That's what gives you that wall of sound which allows for far less precision than you'd expect from a US death metal act. For that reason, the classic Swedish riff structures are intentionally kept fairly simple which suited the young exponent's limited technical skills down to the ground. The Swedish sound is built on a dirty punk backbone while the Americans opted for a flashier classic metal inspired technique with a lot more complexity & technicality. The Swedish guitar tone is significantly more forgiving as it can hide poor technique under all those buzzsaws so it's no surprise that we don't have many genuine guitar heroes from that scene. There's more palm-muting involved in the US death metal technique which is natural as the Swedish guitar tone is simply more conducive to open-strings because everything is so overdriven & distorted that the difference between palm-muted & open strings is less obvious.
Great review Sonny & very much in line with my feelings on the album. It's appeal has always baffled me to be honest.
Nice review Sonny. I thought you might be interested to read what I said about the musicianship & instrumentation of this record on episode 17 of the Metal Academy podcast:
"Look I’ve really been quite looking forward to discussing what’s going on with “King Of The Dead” musically because whether you think it’s the best release or not it’s unquestionably the most interesting record we’ve discussed today from an artistic point of view Ben. Cirith Ungol certainly don’t conform to the generic 80’s model of NWOBHM-influenced heavy metal & there’s a lot more to them than the commonly utilised verse/chorus song structure standard we hear so often. The band were clearly still heavily influenced by the early 1970’s & I wasn’t surprised at all to read that some of this material actually dates back to Cirith Ungol’s early days in the middle of that decade. Where “Frost & Fire” had packaged all of the band’s more commercially accessible material together, “King Of The Dead” heads down a completely different road with a substantially more doomy but no less progressive take on heavy metal. Drummer Robert Garvin has a truck-load of swing to his playing in a similar way to Black Sabbath’s Bill Ward & his slightly jazzy approach to heavy metal drumming is a breath of fresh air. He’s always doing something interesting with his use of ride cymbal & snare rolls being particularly impressive & he somehow finds a way to make some of the less structured & progressive songs like the band’s title song work when they really had no right to. He’s obviously a pretty talented musician. Bass player Flint puts in my favourite performance of the record though & it’s not just because he takes an unusually up-front position in the mix either. I’ve read a lot of people talking about how he’s always playing something completely different from Jerry Fogle & that he rarely sticks with the theme of the riffs but that’s bullshit. In reality what he does is treat the riff structures a bit more loosely than most bass players. He’ll always make sure to present the melodic context of the riff but at the same time he has this uncanny knack for adding his own artistic & melodic stamp to the songs & it works brilliantly in my opinion. He never crosses over the line into self-indulgence & provides the perfect base for Jerry to delve into the more expansive melodic excursions that are a highlight of the album. Geezer Butler was the master of this technique however Black Sabbath never took their proggier moments as far as Cirith Ungol do here. What a great bass player this guy is to be mentioned in the same breath as Geezer who our listeners will know by now is a long-time favourite of mine. But let’s not forget guitarist Jerry Fogle’s contribution here too Ben because he’s made an enormous impact on this album. To be completely honest his guitar technique isn’t exactly wonderful. He’s a long way from a virtuoso as his chops are limited & he lacks class in his execution & technique but what he does have is an excellent ear for melody & a seemingly limitless artistic palette. I’m a big fan of the sections where he multi-tracks numerous different guitar tracks on top of each other with harmonies flowing in & out of each other & it’s actually these that people are hearing when they’re referring to the guitar & bass harmonizing. It’s really quite impossible to imagine how Cirith Ungol could have played a lot of this material live because there’s just so many different guitar parts being presented at the same time. I can’t believe it could possibly sound as good with a single guitarist but I’m open to being proven wrong about that. As with so many metal musicians of the time, Jerry clearly worshiped at the altar of Tony Iommi but to Jerry’s credit he manages to not only harness Tony’s inner heaviness but matches him for the most part with some of the most gargantuan riffs we’ve heard on the show to date. This is a really big component of what makes “King Of The Dead” so special. And when you add in the more progressive & at times psychedelic leanings of Jerry’s solo work you’ve got some genuinely interesting heavy metal on your hands. Now even if you love everything the three instrumentalists in the band have to offer, there’s still the obvious elephant in the room that we’re yet to discuss in front man Tim Baker. He’s certainly not for everyone & I’d suggest he’s a fine example of an acquired taste. Personally, I think he works brilliantly on the slower, doomier numbers on the tracklisting but the faster songs see him feeling the need to repeatedly contribute those awful slightly out-of-key divebomb shrieks & I have to admit that I find him hard to tolerate. But when he’s on the money in the more epic tracks he sounds genuinely unnerving & insane which adds something extra to the music in my opinion. Overall, it’s obvious that Cirith Ungol’s main influence is the first three Black Sabbath albums & that can’t be a bad thing but if you listen closely you can also hear bits & pieces of other Sabbath-influenced early 70’s hard rock bands like Budgie & Bang as well as plenty of progressive rock & some of the psychedelics of Cream & Sir Lord Baltimore. The fact that these influences hark back to an era blessed with so much substance makes the band seem like a much more attractive prospect to me so I inevitably give Cirith Ungol a lot more of a chance to impress me than I might other stock standard 80’s metal bands. I don’t know about you Ben but there’s definitely enough genuine doom metal on the album to have Cirith Ungol spoken of in those terms (if not falling straight into the doom bucket). I don’t hear the whole epic metal thing much though & I find it strange that the band are always lumped in with the early exponents of that sound. I mean they obviously have some things in common with a band like Manilla Road but do they actually sound anything alike? I’m not sure they do. In fact I’m not sure they sound much like any of their contemporary peers to be honest. And that’s a real feather in Cirith Ungol’s cap if you ask me."
Great review Sonny. "Paranoid" was one of my earliest exposures to a genuine metal sound too & is still my favourite Sabbath record to this day.
Great review Xephyr. It's a very accurate portrayal of what people can expect from "I.N.R.I.".
Great review Sonny. I couldn't have said it better.
Great review. It accurately reflects my thoughts when revisiting the album this morning & my feelings on Blind Guardian & power metal in general are pretty much identical.
I dunno about that Andi. Those two examples are heavily weighted towards the more melodic side of The Revolution so I'm not surprised at all that someone like Vinny would struggle with them. The Revolution clan also offers a broad array of more extreme sounds that might appeal to people like Vinny significantly more than those.
Hahahahahaha..... Outstanding work Xephyr. One of your best.
I noticed that Moribund Mantras have been quoting your review in publicity posts on Facebook overnight Sonny. You're a global superstar!
Nice review Sonny. I believe it was actually Andy that contributed the vocals on "Roadcrew" which is why they sound a little different. Make sure you vote in the Hall as I submitted this release there a while back.
See Ben? I see this site becoming totally dedicated to this subgenre moving forwards. It's inevitable the way we're going.
Another outstanding review Xephyr. It gives me a really defined idea of what to expect whilst simultaneously challenging the band on some of the issues I’ve always had with their sound. Great stuff mate!
"Mental Funeral" is where my Autopsy sweet spot lies too but I also like the "Retribution For The Dead" & "Fiend For Blood" EPs. I haven't really gotten on with anything they've done since 1992 though I'm afraid although it might be time for a revisit.
So saxy, the question on everybody’s lips iiiiisssss....
(well mine anyway....)
Is “Frizzle Fry” a metal album??
P.S. Make sure you vote in the Hall Of Judgement too.
Excellent review & I completely agree with your synopsis. I find it hard to understand the backlash to "Sunbather" from a purely musical point of view. This is some outstandingly well composed & executed metal music & your scoring is entirely appropriate (in fact I scored it the same). I saw Deafheaven play live on the tour for this album though & I have to say that George Clarke's on-stage image certainly contributes to alienating a large portion of the largely male black metal audience. I'd be lying if I said that his femininities didn't make me feel a little uncomfortable myself actually as I'm just so used to extreme metal concerts being a celebration of masculinity & testosterone-fueled show-boating. For this reason, I think Deafheaven have helped to push the black metal scene forwards into a more modern, open-minded & welcoming place. Some people have a problem with that. I'm not one of them.
Another solid review saxy. I've always been a big Alice In Chains fan but I have to admit that (although they're unquestionably very solid additions to the band's back catalogue) I've never rated any of their acoustic releases as genuine classics. I guess I just prefer the heavier dirges. "MTV Unplugged" probably comes the closest. I went with a 4/5 for "Jar Of Flies" but it was touch & go as to whether I'd go a touch lower. The first three tracks are all high class (particularly "Nutshell" which is amongst the band's best work) but there's a drop in quality from there even though I generally like most of the remaining tracks. "Don't Follow" is the exception as it doesn't do much for me at all really. Perhaps my opinion is being driven by my emotions here. It's certainly possible as my first real girlfriend was obsessed with "Jar Of Flies" at the time of release & we listened to it religiously but she ended up breaking my heart into a zillion pieces (not very metal, I know).
Great review & I agree whole-heartedly. “Lateralus” is my Tool album of choice but I regard “Ænima” as an undisputed classic that’s very close behind.
Great review. Did you mean to leave a rating on this one too?
I appreciate your thoughts on this Jason but I would suggest that Ben's comparison on the production quality is completely justifiable given that the bands mentioned were essentially Destruction's main competition. It would have been "comparing apples with oranges" if he'd compared "Eternal Devastation" with Iron Maiden's "Somewhere In Time" or Fates Warning's "Awaken The Guardian" but to make comparisons with the senior thrash metal releases of the time seems to be completely justified to me. Whether Ben's opinion is wrong or right, the whole purpose of album reviews is to give the reader a true representation of your thoughts on the sound that's coming out of the speakers. I don't see why releases with lower recording budgets should be given any concessions. I mean if you're buying a car for $10,000 it makes little difference whether the manufacturer has spent $5,000 or $8,000 on actually making the product. You just want a good car. It would be different if one of the cars was significantly cheaper to buy but that's not the case here.