“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 December 2nd — December 8th.
Sunday, December 2nd
The Chasm – The Spell of Retribution (2004)
Playing a breed of mammoth death metal that is impressive in both scope and delivery, The Chasm have staked their claim to the throne of the Metal of Death. With familiar allusions to Slayer, Sepultura, and other forefathers of the vitriolic thrash movement, the band outflanks their masters with a dwarfing compositional prowess. While slightly more melodic than previous releases, the brooding dissonance and choppy riffing remain a staple of the band’s sound. The album begins with a Ktulu-esque instrumental, and avoids all the pratfalls of the typical metal intro. “From the Curse, a Scourge” builds as a finger tapped solo is played over held power chords before giving way to a dark recurring melody. This song is complete and fulfilling, and sets the stage for the rest of the album by presenting many of the ideas that will be explored on The Spell of Retribution. The band continues without a misstep through the remainder of the album, injecting each song with a sense of purpose along the way. Each track is alive and transitions fluidly from one part to the next.
Guitarist/vocalist Daniel Corchado’s meticulous songwriting ability, which was apparent on previous releases, has been refined to a sharp point on The Spell of Retribution, and as a result he is pretty much able to take the listener wherever he pleases. Where other bands fail to pull off these sort engaging compositions though an embarrassing hodgepodge of styles and ideas, The Chasm succeed with ease. Whether they are rendering the entire Slayer discography obsolete (almost) on “Manifest My Intervention,” or rewarding the listener with a brief taste of bright melodic riff work of “Eternal Cycle of Disillusion,” the sense that the band is in control remains throughout. [Ramar Pittance]
Monday, December 3rd
Pagan Altar – Judgement of the Dead (1982/1998)
Although Judgement of the Dead wasn’t officially released until 1998 (under the title Vol 1), it was recorded way back in 1982, and with the songs all having been written between 1978 and 1981, it represents a crucial enough document of the outside-the-mainstream development of that collision between the doomy sounds of Sabbath and Pentagram and more hard-driving, NWOBHM-leaning traditional heavy metal. You might look to Witchfinder General for a loose parallel, but to be honest, Pagan Altar has always existed in a universe almost entirely of its own creation, where earthy blues licks flow seamlessly into epic doom elegies that remain unmatched in their ability to summon a dusty, mournful atmosphere. Judgement of the Dead, finally rereleased with proper title and cover art by Shadow Kingdom Records thirty years after it was recorded, evokes the feeling of reading the history of a long-dead and forgotten civilization, written in its own words on the eve of its destruction. Except here, the past is alive, and breathes its vitality into every listener willing to sit, and bow, and listen. [Dan Obstkrieg]
Tuesday, December 4th
Diamond Head – Lightning to the Nations (1980)
An original pressing of 1,000 copies self-released in a generic white LP sleeve during the initial surge of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal… Doesn’t sound like the kind of thing that would go on to become one of the most genre-defining (and in some ways, defying) albums of the movement. Yet, with a little bit of luck, that is exactly what happened with what came to be known as Lightning to the Nations. The innocuous release ended up in the hands of a prominent British journalist who championed the colossal riffs and hooks of “Am I Evil”, “The Prince”, and “Helpless”, the latter two also representing some of the earliest examples of what would come to be known as thrash metal. Though Diamond Head never achieved great success, their debut still stands tall amongst the best works of their contemporaries—and their disciples. [Dave Pirtle]
Wednesday, December 5th
Control Denied – The Fragile Art of Existence (1999)
The Fragile Art of Existence is, by and large, an exercise in intense and dynamic progressive metal, and in many ways, it’s the logical progression from Death’s swansong The Sound of Perseverance. (For those who don’t know, some of the material on that album was actually originally intended for Control Denied.) The drumming, once again handled by the amazing Richard Christy, retains much of its extreme-metal influenced speed and technicality, and the riffing style reeks of the last couple of Death albums, especially in Schuldiner’s distinctive blend of traditional metal force and flavor with more melodically engaging progressive elements. The big difference here is obviously the clean operatic vocals, which are handled by none other than Tim Aymar of Pharaoh fame. This was obviously the style Schuldiner was heading towards with Death, and hearing Schuldiner’s brilliant lyrics sung in this way is a wonderful treat, particularly because they feel so well suited to the music at hand. Anyone who’s heard Pharaoh is well aware of Aymar’s stellar range and tone, and he keeps up with the more extreme and demanding frameworks of Control Denied’s music with nary a hiccup to be found. [Chris McDonald]
Thursday, December 6th
Rhapsody Of Fire – The Frozen Tears of Angels (2010)
Highlights are abundant, but I’d say the apex hits with the amazing “Reign of Terror,” possibly the most epically charged tune Luca Turilli’s ever managed to forge. All the signature elements of instrumental and vocal wizardry are there, but the song’s aggressive approach (including blackened rasps), coupled with it’s sinister and repeatedly crescendoing Latin chorus, give it one hell of a surprisingly charged, galloping and combative atmosphere. Definitely the sort of cut capable of enlivening glass-cutter-nipples and motivating one towards victory at all costs. [Captain]
Friday, December 7th
Vader – De Profundis (1995)
Some maintain that the Vader sound rarely strays–and they’re largely correct–but this is their seminal work. Arguments can be made for their thrashified debut, The Ultimate Incantation, but Vader–and every other Polish death metal band–have been trying to re-write De Profundis since its release. Driven by the Piotr Wiwczarek’s unmistakable vocal delivery, the album draws the perfect balance between the spine-crushing and the accessible. “Silent Empire,” “Sothis,” and “Blood of Kingu” are staples to this day, and deeper cuts like “Of Moon, Blood, Dream and Me” are testament to the superb songcraft of this classic lineup. The blueprint for the sound of an entire nation.
Saturday, December 8th
Skyclad – The Wayward Sons of Mother Earth (1991)
Expanding its ambition even beyond the inimitable Dreamweaver, Skyclad’s The Wayward Sons of Mother Earth was Martin Walkyier’s first post-Sabbat venture and it was instantly destined for enshrinement as the world’s first folk metal album. The pioneering spirit of this alchemic admixture was the perfect vehicle for Walkyier’s incomparably witty and verbose lyrical politicism. Although later records would more fully embrace and refine the folk-fusion, the raw audacity of the debut’s thrash-meets-medieval-England remains the defining moment of both the band and its genre.
See you next week.