originally written by Jim Brandon
I don’t know about some of you dweebs, but hardcore has been with me right along with metal from the moment I first tuned-in Z Rock Radio back in the early/mid 80‘s. There are reviewers on this site who have been listening to Suicidal Tendencies, Cro-Mags, and D.R.I. longer than some of you tough guy posers have been alive, and we probably thought your parents were pussies, so keep that in mind before you mouth off. New York veterans All Out War bring what I love to hear in hardcore: granite-like songwriting, unexpectedly impressive musicianship, and a clear skull crushing sound. No trends or goofy hair, and no overblown macho posturing, they’re just laying out the jams.
Assassins In The House Of God is mature, intelligent hardcore that features far more metal traits than your average wife beater-wearers. A well thought out concept album dealing with corruption inside the Church, the disc opens with a fist to the face by way of “Curtain Call For The Crucified”, but I swear to God I heard Slayer lyrics during “Behind The Crescent And The Cross”, which begins a strange problem I have with this disc. If Kerry King and crew decided to go into a totally hardcore direction, it would probably sound exactly like Assassins… right down to the solos, but there’s also a riff in the title track that sounds an awful lot like Testament’s “Burnt Offerings”. I realize All Out War are not purely hardcore, which is fine, but I’m having a hard time determining if this is an intentional homage, or a subconscious lifting of ideas.
Assassins… is still one damn heavy, damn good CD. “Into The Arms Of Annihilation” churns out some riveting opening riffs that come very close to being authentic death metal, and “Glorified In Deceit” breaks into a Celtic Frost “Babylon Fell” type of groove. “Angels Of Genocide” thrashes mightily and features an old-school breakdown that really, truly brings back some great memories. But then that creeping feeling comes right back at me again, and no matter how catchy and addictive this killer album manages to be, much of it sounds distractedly derivative of 80’s thrash bands right down to familiar time changes. To carry on an updated tradition is one thing, but the recycling of recognizable riffs is very difficult to get past during a large portion of the bands’ return.
The last five tracks are the most individual-sounding of the bunch, and offer a more original take on the All Out War aesthetic. Hefty chugging riffs, slamming mid-paced grooves and Mike Score’s lung busting screams and growls set these tunes apart from the more familiar compositions that came before them due to avoiding familiar-sounding riffs. The odd thing is, that even though the last ‘half’ is the most original, it also lacks the fire of the first six tunes, as contrived as they may be.
If you didn’t know any better, you’d say I’m really bashing this disc, but the fan in me would have no problem going out of the way to pick this up because there’s a little bit of shred, a ton of wickedly heavy rhythms, and a production that kicks you right in the mush. Assassins… is thoroughly enjoyable, occasionally intense rebirth for the mighty All Out War, and while the fanboy in me wants to take this disc and prop it up on a mantle, that damn critic in me just can’t let that happen. Recommended to the faithful, perhaps even mandatory, and a reminder that sometimes an album is worth respecting and owning even if you go into the purchase knowing the world won’t shift under your feet because of it.