“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 February 17th — February 23rd.
Sunday, February 17th
Testament – The Gathering (1999)
Once the “shuffling musician” years of Testament’s career began, Chuck Billy and Eric Peterson always seemed to surround themselves with only the best talent available, and The Gathering (how fitting) is a prime example of an alliance of heavy metal royalty done right. Containing not only some of the band’s heaviest songs up until this point, this bombastic beast of a thrashsterpiece helped set the bar for modern production among thrashers; those both new and old are following in The Gathering‘s footsteps to this day.
Monday, February 18th
Hypocrisy – Hypocrisy (1999)
The band was pretty much unstoppable on their run from The Fourth Dimension to this record, so picking a favorite was daunting. For sheer devastation, you might want to look elsewhere (The Final Chapter), as Hypocrisy explores the more adventurous regions that were travelled on the second half of Abducted. It’s a bit of an anomaly amongst their discography, as ragers like “Apocalyptic Hybrid” are in the minority. Instead, we get deliberately-paced anthems like “Elastic Inverted Visions” and haunting ballads like “Paled Empty Sphere.” For all of their flirtations with the extra-terrestrial, Hypocrisy stands as the band’s most alien and otherworldly exhibition.
Tuesday, February 19th
Amorphis – Tales From The Thousand Lakes (1994)
This beast of the melodic death metal genre—its true gem and one of the genre’s pillars—is a concept album made by several Finnish dudes that were barely of legal drinking age. Those same Finnish dudes are today some of the most recognizable figures in the metal scene, while Tales from the Thousand Lakes became a true metal classic, anticipating the future blurring of the death and doom subgenre boundaries. Seventeen years later, it still sounds fresh and inspiring.
Wednesday, February 20th
Kyuss – Blues For The Red Sun (1992)
Even though the birds know this as a fact, it doesn’t hurt to repeat: the guys in Kyuss are the fathers of stoner metal and their second full-length, Blues for the Red Sun, is (arguably) their finest achievement and one of the genre’s peaks. It has since been copied by a plague of bands, and although many notable releases have been produced in the genre, none has quite managed to capture the tone and fuzz that made Blues for the Red Sun a landmark stoner metal album.
Thursday, February 21st
Danzig – II: Lucifuge (1990)
Refining the formula of the more rudimentary Danzig debut, the Evil Elvis perfected his blend of goth-tinted blues, rock and metal with Lucifuge. From the blustery “Long Way Back From Hell” to the swaggering shuffle of “Killer Wolf,” Lucifuge is a moody journey through all things dark and devilish, taking a rootsier, less extreme approach to pseudo-Satanic posturing and arriving there in less cartoonish fashion than many more comically demonic peers. Dark and brooding, Lucifuge still rocks like holy Hell.
Friday, February 22nd
Minsk – The Ritual Fires of Abandonment (2007)
Change is essential for progression, even if the foundation remains the same. For instance, the lead-off track to The Ritual Fires Of Abandonment by my Chicago neighbors Minsk, instantly separates itself from promising predecessor Out Of A Center, Which Is Neither Dead Nor Alive by taking a slightly different approach as an intro. Shifting from a whisper to nearly “Die Eir von Satan” rigid percussion at first, things almost immediately mellow and glide into a smooth tribal beat accented by floating bass guitar, and throaty, serenely stoned vocals. The voice gradually becomes more urgent, and the inevitable explosion takes place as “Embers” finally roars into full-on metallic life without breaking stride from its initial hypnotic rhythm. The more restrained beginning represents the growth in Minsk, and blooms as time passes.
It isn’t until many minutes later with the raging “White Wings” that Minsk brings back oppressive heaviness and painful groove in a more full-on way for a longer period of time. Overall, I’d say The Ritual Fires… is reliant more on resolute songwriting than guitar-driven power, with Minsk preferring to let the natural flow of the music shine through, and using more aggressive passages for color. While this might seem no different than any other atmospheric, oceanic band, what separates this band from peers such as the fantastic Across Tundras is their exceptional ability to make time fly due to the intelligently calculated, expressive nuances that embellish each moment of this disc. The minutes just vanish with no resistance, but each of those minutes has meaning. [Jim Brandon]
Saturday, February 23rd
Excrutiator – Devouring (2011)
At the risk of damning with faint praise, one of the best things I can say about Excruciator is that, when I listen to the band’s music, I am not immediately reminded of some other band. Excruciator is certainly not offering a novel approach to thrash—the band is about as straight-forward as can be—but it nonetheless has its own voice, and in an oversaturated genre like thrash, that is saying something.
Now to praise Excruciator in a more direct manner: This band can write a damn good thrash metal song. In fact, with Devouring, Excruciator has written nine damn good thrash metal songs. The band’s music leans toward the heavier side of the genre, with a no-frills, riff-after-riff approach. The solos provide a little melody, but any other instances of such come off as incidental. That is not to say that Excruciator’s music is devoid of depth or subtlety, just that the band has no intention of showing you its sensitive side. [Jeremy Morse]
See you next week.