1999, Osmose/Olympic Records
Of course I'm going to start here by mentioning the inevitable link between this band and Morbid Angel. While Angel Corpse has gone on record stating their mystification concerning the constant references people make to Morbid Angel, I am going to choose to ignore their constantly reiterated professions of their originality and just leave the topic alone by saying that it is really undeniable that at least Morbid Angel serves as a major influence for this band. It is written all over the face of this album - the music, the lyrics, the political statements and ethical messages.
But I will ameliorate that statement by saying here that if Angel Corpse ever had, at any time, pretensions to being Morbid Angel's protoges, the apprentice has definitely and decidely outdone the master with this release. They take Morbid Angel's approach to death metal stylistics as a starting point (the microscopic changes in the tremelo-picked riffs, the obscure and arcane melodicism, the wah-soaked insane soloing, the blur blast beat backing up the guitars almost all the way through the songs - switching from fast to faster without ever really pausing in the ever-pulsing double-bass department, the corrosive 7-string guitars, minor harmonies, the psychedelic yet technical riffing - most noticeable in the sixth track, 'Solar Wills', etc.) but then move far beyond that point of origin by pressing every single characteristic to extremes (I hate to use that word, it has entered the American vernacular and thus lost all its power of suggestion, but it applies here) that I think (to be impertinent for a second) Morbid Angel are no longer capable of matching.
To qualify this I should probably add that I don't know how relevant Morbid Angel really remains in any case. In the opinion of this reviewer Morbid Angel was finished quite some time ago, and Trey Azagthoth should just form an instrumental band named Lava and be done with it.
But music is not just a matter of form or stylistics, there is also the content that is shaped by those convictions - the music itself, the message of the melodies. In that respect Angel Corpse is their own band through and through, they are pushing everything to extremes in order to make a statement, but the music itself is very interesting in that it often manifests as a mirror image or reflection of their political and ethical stance, or of the message of the lyrics. It is very telling when you read through a review of this band's material and find that most of the adjectives used by the reviewer can actually be found in various Angel Corpse song titles: they match their lyrical vision and the message of their music that well. This is not just a result of careful and obsessive composition, but the inevitable outcome of a very powerful vision when it comes to the direction, impact, and image of the band. Angel Corpse know what they want to say, and how to say it.
After listening to this album a few times it dawned on me that bands that are somehow harbingers or heralds of styles that will be developed or made widespread in the future (the New Order) are almost always seen as aggressors - as a threat, as violent beyond their own measure. Angel Corpse are this type of band - I believe they are original enough in their own way to start a new circle of influence, but they are also politically violent in their constant emphasis on necessary changes in the social architecture. In any case they are definitely bringing something new to the scene.
I really enjoy reading these lyrics, they (the words) are so far above most other death metal bands' material when it comes to their strength of conviction, the passion displayed, their creativity, and the imagery used (creating a world where blasphemy is evoked in the name of sexual and violent obsessions - or rather, the nexus where the obsessions of sex and power meet and blend into each other in a fantasy landscape).
This is one of the few bands that is committed to the evolution of death metal, and they pursue this end through strictly personal or idiosyncratic methods - as Angel Corpse advances into new areas of melodic transport or lyrical power (or ideology) the rest of the scene will advance with them. What makes this band unique is their ability to evolve while constantly referencing the past - they never sound as if they are trying to cut ties with their own history: they progress at a set pace, slowly adding to their sound, their abilities, their destructive power. It is not so much a pattern of progression as it is a legacy of growth, a maturation process. This is a group on a mission: I am guessing that deep within their minds, Angel Corpse know exactly what they want to play - they just have to advance towards that goal in measured steps. Soon, I think, they will meet their ambitions, and the death metal scene will be left with a marked monument - a colossus. Until then, you would be wise to stay out of this band's way. Buy this album.