“Album Of The Day” is a Last Rites Facebook feature we started 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 June 10th — June 16th.
Sunday, June 10th
Sadus – Illusions / Chemical Exposure (1988 / 1991)
One of the missing links between thrash and early death metal, California’s Sadus also occupies the middle ground between the tighter, more technical Bay Area style and the blistering blitzkrieg of Teutonic thrash. Their debut, Illusions was originally released in 1988, and was then re-released three years later on CD with new eye-peeling-ly neon artwork and the new title of Chemical Exposure. What hadn’t changed was the ferocity of the entire affair, with Jon Allen’s tempos careening into near-chaos throughout, while Rob Moore and Darren Travis rip through a slew of speedy riffs and frantic noisy solos that suitably fall between King / Hanemann and Azagthoth. Travis’ vocals are a shrieking bark, as feral as the band beneath him, and all of it is buoyed by the earliest appearance of journeyman bassist Steve DiGiorgio (later of Testament, Death, and others), his bass here popping out from beneath the riffs to raise its head from time to time, and often joining Moore and Travis in some finger-twisting runs that lend Chemical Exposure just enough hint of the tech-y to keep it from being an exercise in sheer speed. Alongside Morbid Saint and Blood Feast, Sadus released some of the finest American death / thrash of the early days, and though the subsequent two records were also strong, Sadus was never better than here. [Andrew Edmunds]
Monday, June 11th
Abhorer – Zygotical Sabbatory Anabapt (1996)
Singapore rarely gets brought up when it comes to classic era black metal, which is almost criminal when it comes to the only full-length release by black metal outfit Abhorer. Zygotical Sabbatory Anabapt can be seen as a study in the blasphemous metal arts at the time of its release, encompassing equal parts of the German influence (early Sodom), the pioneering black/death sound that sprang up in Brazil (Sarcófago), and the chilling, more contemporary second-wave Norwegian influence (Mayhem). The Sodom influence brings a strong thrash vibe that powers the record forward with fast, aggressive riffing between blasts of chaos. The loose, pounding kick drums sound imported straight from Brazil, creating an almost haphazard groove that feels in danger of falling off the rails at any moment. Precision is not a priority here, though the band are obviously solid musicians, they are pushing their abilities to the limit—powered purely by passion and demonic rage. The fourth track in, “Hymeneal Altar of Messianic Salacitation,” has some of the iciest riffing that never came out of Norway; the entire track, minus the vocal delivery, would sound right at home in the middle of De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. Even the bass playing eerily mimics the unsettling lines found in tracks like “Life Eternal.” While the influences here may seem very apparent, nothing really feels ripped off. Abhorer come off as organic and inspired, carving out their own sound from the clay of their predecessors. Zygotical Sabbatory Anabapt (more easily found on the 2014 compilation, Cenotaphical Tri-Memorialmyths), is a blasphemic barn-burner from beginning to end that encompasses everything that is so great about underground extreme metal, and from a country that doesn’t get nearly enough recognition for its contributions to the genre. [Ryan Tysinger]
Tuesday, June 12th
Byzantine – Oblivion Beckons (2008)
Byzantine’s combination of groove metal, prog/tech tendencies, and thrash isn’t the kind of thing that would excite many a fan on paper in 2018, but a decade ago, they were at the height of their unlikely genre-splicing powers. Ripping solos, melodic and half-harsh vocals, thick, greasy grooves, and twitchy rhythms permeated every second of the album, with the seemingly at-odds elements never feeling as strange as you’d expect. Rather, the band rode solid songwriting and their natural chemistry to create this great, if slightly overlong album. But getting to the end was worth it: the closing duo of “Deep End of Nothing” and “A Residual Haunting” was the band’s finest moment, with the latter leaving the album’s ultimate hammer drop for its final minutes. Crushing, and as if the band knew they’d never top it, they broke up after the album was finished. They’ve since reformed, releasing a few solid albums, but nothing before or after Oblivion Beckons matched this level of hybrid excellence. [Zach Duvall]
Wednesday, June 13th
Skid Row – Slave To The Grind (1991)
Coming in right at the end of the hair metal era, Skid Row’s Slave To The Grind is the last great album of that scene, even as it clearly points towards the darker, edgier rock that would characterize the 90s. It’s markedly heavier than the band’s debut—and than any other album of its day. From that opening segment of “Monkey Business” beneath Sebastian Bach’s inimitable scream, Slave To The Grind is a nearly perfect hard rock album, never falling prey to the “party ‘n’ love songs” aesthetic of so many of Skid Row’s contemporaries, instead tackling issues like crises of faith, drug addiction, sociopolitical strife, and more with a complexity that no other band of that era could muster. Also of note: thanks to the innovation of Nielsen SoundScan, Slave To The Grind was the first album to debut at #1 on the Billboard chart, and thus, helped to prove that previously marginalized styles like heavy metal were, in fact, more popular than the chart doctors believed. [Andrew Edmunds]
Thursday, June 14th
King Diamond – The Puppet Master (2003)
Album number eleven from King Diamond was a very pleasant surprise for those who walked into the game a little nervous to see a song called “Christmas” listed and realizing that King was about to unload a storyline that involved evil puppets in Budapest. But, put a concept that’s a tad preposterous on paper into the hands of a master of the evilly absurd like King and you suddenly get the most consistent KD record front-to-back since 1990’s The Eye. The overall flow here is fantastic, King’s voice sounds incredible, and Andy LaRocque’s leads are incessant and 100% top-shelf from start to finish. Sure, the way “Christmas” reinterprets “The Little Drummer Boy” at its onset remains a little awkward, but when you have knock-out punches like “Magic,” “The Ritual” and “Blood to Walk” to counter, who really cares? Plus, a bonus dvd that shines a haunted light on King telling the album’s story amidst ghostly candles in his dining room? That right there is the gift that keeps on giving.
And speaking of gifts: Happy/fiendish birthday to the man himself, King Diamond! May your day be filled with uncanny occurrences, arcane secrets revealed and a cake quite possibly shaped like the alchemic symbol for brimstone! Here’s to many, many more birthdays to come, Mr. Petersen! (And go Denmark/World Cup 2018!) [Captain]
Friday, June 15th
Enslaved – Blodhemn (1998)
Blodhemn might be the most straightforward record in Enslaved’s vast catalog, but that is really only in relative terms. The fact that this record is so focused on The Almighty Riff—a quality the raw/heavy/irresistible Peter Tägtgren production emphasizes—also furthers this impression. But hidden within the album is a surprising amount of depth, from total violence (aided by drummer Dirge Rep) and great melodic stretches to more introspective passages. Still, despite these variations, Blodhemn is undeniably one of Enslaved’s least sprawling and least influential albums, but it remains a refreshing riff-loaded behemoth, in part because of the unique spot in it it has within their history. It is transitional, as it sees them moving away from the black/viking they helped to create on their first three albums. But it is also pre-transitional, as the album’s sound would be expanded, warped, and flipped inside out on the ensuing record, the brilliant Mardraum. Even when being “normal,” Enslaved was always in motion. Also, this thing just turned 20. Feel old. [Zach Duvall]
Saturday, June 16th
Deathspell Omega – Kénôse (2005)
Deathspell Omega’s transition on Si Monvmentvm Reqvires, Circvmspice from very-good-but-very-regular black metallers to avant-garde visionaries came out of nowhere. Their follow-up to this landmark classic had to deliver, and the ensuing 36-minute “EP” Kénôse more than met expectations. Simultaneously creepier and more of a technical whirlwind than its predecessor—both astonishing feats, as anyone familiar with SMRC will attest—Kénôse also managed to maintain the high concepts started the year before while looking towards the future. Riffs and the music as a whole were getting farther and farther from convention; churning dissonance and rhythmic weirdness continued to take over from tremolo lines, and the band’s suffocating cacophony grew to the density of death metal. Kénôse, and nearly every DsO released that followed, proved that SMRC was no mere fluke. Draining and dominant, this one. [Zach Duvall]
See you next week.