originally written by Jim Brandon
When I first heard last year that Angelcorpse were reuniting and quickly working on new material for future albums, it was pretty exciting news. Among the warlike middle-tier blast beat thrash/death metal bands, they’ve delivered a solid if somewhat unspectacular slew of albums that include some deadly tracks such as “Into The Storm Of Steel”, “Reap The Whirlwind”, “Stormgods Unbound”, “Consecration”, and “Soulflayer”, and are known to be a bulldozing live act when they set their minds to it. As a fan, I have no major problem with Angelcorpse and will continue to support them, but as both a fan and a critic, I’d have to say Of Lucifer And Lightning is not the conquering return I was expecting. Not even close.
There’s a difference between a ‘classic sound’ and a rehash, and unfortunately much of the half-hearted material on this album sounds like Angelcorpse merely reaching back and picking up leftover scraps from the cutting room floor of their past two studio albums and refurbishing them, topping it all off with an amazingly flat mix, and a phoned-in kind of execution. As opposed to a more primitive but cavernous sound as found on Mayhem’s Ordo Ad Chao, the production reminds me of the muddy mess of Morbid Angel’s Heretic with music that follows those same lines of bland incompletion.
As far as highlights go, “Extermination Sworn” has a pretty nasty swarm of riffs going on at the beginning just before the vocals kick in, and the midsection solo has a drugged-out sort of feel to it with a really wicked lumbering riff floating just beneath, but the tune just falls apart in a weird cluster of muddled, crawling rhythms before eventually getting back on track to end the tune in good form. “Saints Of Blasphemy” also trudges through an excellent extended doom breakdown of sorts, marking one of the rare moments where the sludgy production serves to enhance rather than detract, and the faster parts of “Thrall” are an effective counterpoint to the rumbling midpaced rhythms that dominate the rest of the song.
The problem is I can‘t highlight a single track off this disc that I‘d call ‘great’, and there are way too many parts that sound identical to past albums. John Longstreth’s performance contains no fire, almost like an afterthought, Pete Palubicki’s normally chaotic solos are toned-down and seem hastily improvised, usually ending up drowned out in a torrent of clouded rhythms. Helmkamp’s vocals remain unchanged since last we heard from him, in a way it only adds to the dated feel of this album, and it really surprises me that a band filled with perfectionists would be satisfied putting out such a going-through-the-motions product.
While I haven’t given up the hope that Angelcorpse can still deliver the goods, Of Lucifer And Lightning could possibly be looked upon as their least favored full-length studio album when it’s all said and done. It sounds too rushed and pieced together, or just mundane overall, and the lack of promotional push really hasn’t helped their case any. I’ll always be a fan, and that cover is pretty cool, but I’ve been sitting here with my import copy for a while now wondering if loyalty and nostalgia is enough to warrant keeping something that feels like a well-dressed demo.