“Album Of The Day” is a new Last Rites Facebook feature we started recently whose purpose is quite straight-forward: highlight one album per day and say a few words about it. Understanding that not everyone chooses to participate in the booking of faces, we thought it might be nice to toss in a new feature that gathers the albums in a single piece on a weekly basis.
Here are the seven albums we picked for the week of April 15th — 21st.
Sunday, April 15th
Iced Earth – Night of the Stormrider (1991)
Friends, it gives me no pleasure to remind you that Iced Earth has been very bad and boring for a long time now and that Jon Schaffer is a conspiracy-humping blowhard idiot. (This particular dummy rates 2001’s Horror Show as Iced Earth’s last truly excellent album.) But journey with me back to 1991 for the masterclass in pure American power/speed metal that is Night of the Stormrider. Although the star of the show is undoubtedly John Greely’s shrieking madman vocals, the songs are some of the strongest Jon Schaffer & co. have ever put to tape. The neoclassicisms of “Angels Holocaust” are a bit of an initial feint, but the tendonitis-inducing tandem of “Stormrider” (“Fight on! Grab on! Storm riiiiider!”) and “The Path I Choose” (those riffs! those screams!) are as glorious a mission statement of USPM as one could ever want. And of course, capping it all off is one of the best epics the band ever wrote in the immortal “Travel in Stygian.” Come back to us like this, Jon; can’t you hear the (damned) riffs screaming your name? [Dan Obstkrieg]
Monday, April 16th
Agnostic Front – Cause for Alarm (1987)
Coming off the white-hot Victim In Pain, NYHC bright-spots Agnostic Front added a second guitarist and pushed into crossover territory with Cause For Alarm. Alex Kinon’s playing is more controlled than founding guitarist Vinnie Stigma, and the additional switch to new drummer Louie Beato lends this refined version of Agnostic Front a whipcrack tightness often lacking in hardcore, and none of that at the expense of the band’s brawling energy and head-bashing fury. Beyond that shift toward the metallic, Cause For Alarm is business as usual at heart—Roger Miret’s lyrics deal with all the usual 80s thrash-punk suspects: fighting religion, fighting the world, fighting pollution, fighting, killing, fighting some more… (Only the Pete Steele-penned “Public Assistance” breaks from the pack, a racist screed against minorities that’s best left forgotten.) Twenty-three minutes of blistering thrash-tinted hardcore, Cause For Alarm stands as a high point both for the band’s long and storied career, and for New York hardcore as a whole. [Andrew Edmunds]
Tuesday, April 17th
Darkthrone – Sardonic Wrath (2004)
Several Darkthrone albums are worthy of superlatives and descriptors. A Blaze in the Northern Sky is the most important; Panzerfaust is the Frostian homage; Dark Thrones and Black Flags the goofiest; Transilvanian Hunger the most iconic. And so on and so forth. Sardonic Wrath? The tracks on Fenriz and Nocturno Culto’s 2004 slab go a long way to making it the RIFFIEST Darkthrone album. Need proof? How about the doomness 2:00 into “Information Wants to Be Syndicated,” which simultaneously adds swagger and sorrow to the track. Then there is the perfect, fluttery touch at the 1:32 mark of “Straightening Sharks in Heaven,” which elevates the entire song and somehow renders such a silly title dead serious. The opening bars of “Sacrificing to the God of Doubt” carry a big “shit is about to get real” vibe, perfectly kicking off the album’s home stretch, while the huge descending pattern just under a minute into “Hate is the Law” might as well come with a video of a punk band destroying their gear. The riff hits never stop coming, and along with Fenriz’ typically dependable drum work, some DELICIOUS rawness (obsolete), and one of Nocturno’s most monstrous vocal performances, make Sardonic Wrath a key part of Darkthrone’s second run of classic albums. [Zach Duvall]
Wednesday, April 18th
Tragedy – Tragedy (2000)
Rising from the ashes of His Hero is Gone like a raven taking flight from the ashes of a city ravaged by nuclear war, Tragedy set a post-apocalyptic soundscape of blistering guitars and drums that sound like a tank fire. Their unique brand of d-beat, crust-filled punk rock showcased a system of call and response guitars, acoustic accompaniment, lyrical bridges and mournful interludes. Across the thirty-three minutes that comprise their debut LP, Tragedy never ceases their relentless assault. While their later albums might have featured cleaner production and heavier guitar sounds, it was their debut that set an immediate standard in the scene to which no other bands would ever reach. Tragedy is simply unmatched. [Manny-O-War]
Thursday, April 19th
Samael – Ceremony of Opposites (1994)
Switzerland’s finest (not named Celtic Frost) dialed the black metal intensity way back for their third album, Ceremony of Opposites. Whether you see Ceremony of Opposites as a transitional midpoint between their raw beginnings and the fully electronic/industrial metal direction they would embrace on Passage, or as the perfect, most consistent distillation of their many strengths, the album lobs song after song after song of hugely pummeling riffs, deliberately stomping beats, and ghastly black metal vocals. On a stone-cold classic like “Baphomet’s Throne,” they almost sound like Laibach reinterpreting To Mega Therion. [Dan Obstkrieg]
Friday, April 20th
Devin Townsend – Infinity (1998)
In 1998, Devin Townsend was coming off of two career-defining albums: Ocean Machine’s Biomech and Strapping Young Lad’s City. Infinity was to be his first TRUE solo album, then, and both the blatantly obvious title and music within revealed something great about the man’s intentions: he would follow his muse wherever it took him, which was a great many places. Beginning with the (also blatantly obviously titled) overture “Truth,” Infinity quickly lays down archetypes of several Devy song forms. “Christeen” is the rockin’ but vulnerable love tunage; “Bad Devil” was the original maniacally fun Devy tune upon which “Vampira” and about every Ziltoid song is based; “War” showed his penchant for milking every possible ounce out of an extended, wickedly cool intro; and “Wild Colonial Boy” was… well, no one has quite figured that out yet. Like that track, the whole of Infinity remains perplexing, fearless, utterly brilliant, and fiercely unique. This might not be Devin’s single greatest album, but no other moment of his career quite captures the man so completely. [Zach Duvall]
Saturday, April 21st
Death Angel – The Ultra-Violence (1987)
Famously just teenagers when they released this feral slab of second-wave Bay Area thrash, Death Angel hit the ground running with a burst of speed and intensity that (so far) they haven’t ever quite matched. From the opening barrage of “Thrashers”—a direct statement of intent, if ever there were one—through the epic glory of the title track to the blistering “Mistress Of Pain,” The Ultra-Violence is raw and perfectly ragged—like early Slayer or like their Brazilian counterparts, the band is a hair from careening over the edge, and yet they’re holding it all together brilliantly. Rob Cavestany’s guitar solos are frantic explosions of notes, while Mark Osegueda’s voice largely avoids the Belladonna-esque cleans that would characterize later Death Angel in favor of a snarling bark punctuated with Araya-like piercing screams. Follow-up Frolic Through The Park showed Death Angel growing up and tightening up, and third album Act III showed them progressing, adding acoustic tracks (good) and funk (bad) to their mixture. Post-reformation, they’ve released variations on a modern thrash theme, some good and others less so, but nothing in their catalog rivals the roughshod ultra-violence of The Ultra-Violence. [Andrew Edmunds]
See you next week.