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Saturday, 19 June 2010

Zaphers First Review (Death, The Sound of Perseverance, 1998)

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As promised long ago I said I would bring in a new author to this Blog, and being a man of my word it has come true. He goes under the name of Zapher and is rooted in his NWOBHM, but has a strong appreciation of some Death Metal and Grind, and luckily for me his critical reportage is en par with his knowledge of Iron Maiden,(which is bordering on the encyclopaedic/stalker phase) so his contributions I am very much grateful for, so lets give him a nice GrindtoDeath welcome!
It is apt that a band named “Death” have become so synonymous with Death Metal and have provided the genre with many of its classic and requisite records. Their basis was laid in place by the Bay Area Thrash Metal Movement, a fast and heavy take of Metal music laden with New Wave of British Heavy Metal influences. The band became a major factor in the Florida Metal Movement, as an answer to the music being provided by the West Coast thrash bands.

The Sound of Perseverance is the last album in a stream of revolutionary Death Metal albums, introducing many genre staples. Containing the usual savage lexicon focused on violence and terror. Only instrumental track “Voice of the Soul” takes a break from murder and atrocities. This voiceless track trades Chuck Schuldiner’s fierce and dominating vocal growls for beautiful guitar harmonies. Amongst tracks of high energy and brutal subject matter the track stands out more, especially as an example of Death’s talent as song writers. But the violence stems not just from the perverse poetry but from the sublime guitar work of Schuldiner and Shannon Hamm. With opener Scavenger of Human Sorrow being a constant barrage of doom bringing riffs that drives the rusty nail right into the skull of another victim.

Deaths malicious musicianship is terrifyingly clear in their cover of Judas Priests Painkiller, its inclusion on the album being a sign of how the band wore their influences on their sleeves. The song is mostly a straight cover with little changes to the structure of the original the song, but the band make it seem like an entire reinvention. The song most importantly seems quicker and heavier, despite being the quickest and heaviest of any Judas Priest song in existence. The clean cut solos of Downing and Tipton are replaced with the wailings of Schuldiner and Hamm. Rob Halford’s powerful shrieks are handled surprisingly by Schuldiner who adopts a vocal style un-similar to any of those he used previously. His Halford borders on impression at times and is a clear illustrator of his powerful voice and range. He gives the “terrifying screams” lyric of the song new meaning and his verse outro screams are no less than outstanding. Painkillers famous drum intro is played fierily by Richard Christie, adapted to Deaths sounds with their shrill crash cymbal sounds making the cover instantly unique.

The albums opening “Scavenger of Human Sorrow” is akin to Painkillers opening, with a fierce drum intro of heavy double bass pounding and multiple cymbal crashing being met with a screeching guitar. Christies drum work is as impressive as the musicianship of every other personnel on the album, working beautifully with bassist Scott Clendenin on an album containing little beauty. Clendenin’s bass work is at its best in “Spirit Crusher”, with his slow bass fills working as great transitions between riffs barbarous enough to signal the apocalypse. The bands strong rhythm section provides the perfect basis for the intense vocals and riffs. The bass is allowed to step forward into being a lead instrument in the epic track “A Moment of Clarity”, at times the bass leads the track with a quick succession of fleeting bass lines. The bass styles of the album are clear and almost clean. A vast contrast to the heavy and dirty sounding guitars and powerful drums accompaniments. The bass is always distinct and penetrating during sections that the guitars blend and mesh together, at times mirroring the guitar work but with an entirely different sound because of its clarity. 

The guitars work as a unit utilising the twin lead guitar style introduced by Wishbone Ash and popularised by artists such as Iron Maiden and Thin Lizzy. The unite to play the albums famously ferocious riffs before breaking to play individual solos. As well as harmonising during the albums sparse subdued but sections. The duos trading solos are among the albums highlights. Despite being influenced by the styles put in place by Maiden and many other bands the album is miles away from the stunning guitar harmonies of “Children of the Damned”. However, the emotional impact is just as strong, despite being of a polar opposite spectrum. It is an album that oozes violence as much as the infected wounds that serve as the albums lyrical basis. Unpleasant in everyway but a sheer joy.