“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 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 24th — June 30th.
Sunday, June 24th
Bolt Thrower – War Master (1991)
Firstly, gaze upon the unadulterated awesomeness that is that album art… Blood, swords, war, death, cartoons… It’s damned near perfect, and that’s good, because it has a lot to live up to if it’s going to keep up with the music. Now three albums in, Bolt Thrower was at the peak of their game in 1991, coming off the grinding greatness of the godly crust-metal of In Battle There Is No Law and then the subsequent refinements that came with the world-eating Realm Of Chaos. War Master is the next step from that previous effort, all crushing bulldozer drive and Gavin and Baz’s instantly hooky riffs, with Karl Willetts’ blast-furnace growls to top it all off. Behold the greatness of “Unleashed Upon Mankind,” “What Dwells Within,” the perpetual classic “Cenotaph,” “Profane Creation”… There’s nary a bad track to be heard—this one’s pure (war)mastery from top to bottom, and undeniably one of the finest albums from one of the finest bands. Absolutely godlike. [Andrew Edmunds]
Monday, June 25th
Solitude Aeturnus – Beyond the Crimson Horizon (1992)
America’s finest entrant to the epic doom genre, and the first to truly compete on a par with the predominantly European style, Solitude Aeturnus nevertheless seems to go relatively unheralded except among the true doom faithful. (Keep in mind that although Candlemass was first, Solitude Aeternus was contemporaneous with Sweden’s Sorcerer and active prior to England’s Solstice.) Robert Lowe’s high, clear tone is a wonderful fit for these dark, moody suites, and at times the free wandering of his melodic lines is a bit reminiscent of John Arch’s work in Fates Warning. Although Solitude Aeturnus’s discography is nearly bulletproof and their first two albums, in particular, are borderline epic doom perfection, on their second album Beyond the Crimson Horizon, everything seemed to fall even more exactly into place. John Perez continued to weave riff after unstoppable riff, providing critical evidence that he may be one of the only guitarists able to compete with Leif Edling in the riffstakes of towering doom. It’s not all straight-forward doom, though—there are neoclassical touches here and there, and the midsection of the tremendous “It Came Upon One Night” breaks briefly into some untouchable heavy metal steel. The Eastern scale doubled riffing of “The Hourglass” is another high point, but truth be told, there’s not a single weak song or dull moment on this beautifully dark and emotive album. If you’ve overlooked Solitude Aeturnus until now, there’s no time like the present to follow them through the door of endless time and ride the riffs to oblivion. [Dan Obstkrieg]
Tuesday, June 26th
Severed Head of State – An Invitation To A Beheading: 1998–2001 Discography (2000)
Containing members of Tragedy, Warcry, His Hero is Gone, Copout (Todd Burdette), World Burns to Death, Scorched Earth Policy (Jack Control), J Church, Meadowlark (Chris Pfeffer), Defiance and Axiom (Kelly Halliburton) Severed Head of State has every right to call itself a supergroup. But that wouldn’t be punk now would it? Combining their prior work, three 7” and a one-sided 12”, An Invitation To A Beheading represents a discography through 2001 for Severed Head of State. Although the band would go on to release three more 7”, and LP and two EPs it was this “discography” that cemented them as the tour de force that they would become to be known as. Released in 2001, the band used the title, and cover art, as a direct shot at the political powers that were currently shaping the globe. Their relentless crust punk mixed with hardcore was on full display taking aim at human nature, Christianity and global dominance. [Manny-O-War]
Wednesday, June 27th
Overkill – The Years Of Decay (1989)
Overkill’s catalog is an incredibly strong one, and even amongst long-time fans, there never seems to be a solid consensus on their strongest album—is it the brash rawness of Feel The Fire? The trad-metal tinges of Taking Over? Or is it the tighter, more streamlined Horrorscope? Or the doomy, weird I Hear Black? (Pretty sure no one thinks it’s I Hear Black.) To me, it’s this one, 1989’s The Years Of Decay… and the reason? Well, that’s equally hard to decide. Every song on Decay is killer, from the trudging heaviness of “Skullkrusher” to the catchy bounce of “Elimination,” from the punky drive of “I Hate” through the moody chug of “Who Tends The Fire.” So maybe that’s why I love The Years Of Decay, because the songs here are among the best Overkill would ever write, and in saying so, that puts them well into the upper tiers of thrash. And of course, also, there’s the fact that Blitz is in top shape, his manic yelp in prime Ellsworth form, and the trio of Verni – Gustafson – Falck is absolutely on fire behind him, churning out with inimitable spirit the hyperactive groove that has long been the band’s calling card. So maybe that’s why I love it, because the band is among the best in thrash. Or maybe I’m overthinking the whole thing, and the real reason I love it is just because it rocks like all holy hell.
Yeah, that’s probably it.
O.verkill A.lways R.ules. [A.ndrew E.dmunds]
Thursday, June 28th
Katalepsy – Autopsychosis (2013)
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single day in absence of a good brutal tech death album, must be in want of major slams. Well, Sister Austen, Russia’s Katalepsy has got the goods for you and then some. Every single one of the forty minutes of Autopsychosis is a punishing display of maximalist economy: with a clear, crisp, but outrageously heavy production that offers none of the muddiness of so much brutal/tech death, every blast, riff, gurgle, sweep pick, pinch harmonic, and utterly irresistible slam speaks honestly of its best self. This is music that aims for the perfection of the self; if you let it break you down, it will build you up again. Better living through slamistry. [Dan Obstkrieg]
Friday, June 29th
Mercyful Fate – In The Shadows (1993)
Who knows what would’ve happened had King Diamond and Hank Shermann not decided to butt heads over the direction of Mercyful Fate and called it a day back in ’85, but it’s probably best not to think about it much. From those significant ashes came a treasure trove of delights, including Fatal Portrait, Abigail, “Them”, Conspiracy, The Eye and one of the greatest reunion albums in metal, 1993’s incredible In The Shadows. This record is so bullet-proof, one could conceivably wander directly into the middle of a blazing Glock-party between rival street gangs with nothing but In The Shadows in hand and walk out totally unscathed. Maybe the time away from one another was all that was necessary to bring compromise to the table, as Fate full-length number three pretty much delivers an ideal merger of Shermann’s penchant for intricate, catchy hard rock and solo-Diamond’s appetite for vivid storytelling. Makes perfect sense, too, as the songwriting duties here are pretty much split down the middle, with a slight edge given to King, the unmistakable linchpin. Toss in the requisite Denner dividends, including his most glorious instrumental, “Room of Golden Air,” and you’ve got a veritable classic in your hands. This record just turned 25 one week ago today—eternal thanks for never breaking the oath, Mercyful Fate. [Captain]
Saturday, June 30th
Witchfynde – Give ‘Em Hell (1980)
Outwardly, NWOBHMers Witchfynde borrowed the mystical occultism angle that colored the works of Angel Witch and Venom—but inwardly, Give ‘Em Hell‘s red-eyed-goat-atop-pentagram cover is far spookier and darker than any of the actual music contained within. (I’ve seen a few blog posts lamenting that discrepancy from retrospective listeners expecting something a little heavier, a little more proto-black.) Musically, Give ‘Em Hell is a mostly a hard rock album, infused with some doomy darkness and given the rough-edged production shared by many of Witchfynde’s scenemates, but it’s neither as cartoonishly obsessed with its own evil nor as raw as Venom’s work, more indebted to Thin Lizzy than even Black Sabbath. Parts of Give ‘Em Hell are straight-forward—the biker-y drive of “Ready To Roll” is cut-and-dried, as is the riff-rocking title track, which could be a Saxon tune—and parts tend towards a more progressive-leaning ambition, including the moody “Leaving Nadir,” which is arguably the best song on the album, and the eight-minute psychedelic “Into The Ages Of The Ages.” As 70s hard rock turned into 80s heavy metal, Witchfynde stood across the gap, and Give ‘Em Hell is an interesting bridge between the two, gloomy and guitar-driven and balanced finely on the edge, one of the NWOBHM’s more often overlooked quality entries. [Andrew Edmunds]
See you next week.