2000, Wicked World/Earache
You've got to hand it to Erik Rutan, his star is definitely on the rise. A list of very important death metal releases touched by his eloquent fingers is beginning to form, beginning with this album, running through the new Krisiun, etc. What does this spell out? The rebirth of death metal - the real death metal, not the utterly pathetic goregrind variety that slipped into the scene's bed while black metal was ruling the day. Now that the black metal scene has fallen apart (don't even get me started on that!) a lot of death metal bands have started to resurface, displaying the chops they've been honing over the past five or so years. A good thing? Only, I think, when it is used to further the melodic/rhythmic potential of this genre, and once again start a pattern of progression in a style of music that used to be known mainly for its one-upmanship, competition, and a rabid exploration of extremity. One of the reasons black metal found such a willing audience was that the death metal bands had completely stagnated when extremity for extremity's sake became the order of the day. Has this changed - did death metal bands learn the lesson of the mid-90s and lock themselves in the woodshed to create new reasons for making music? Time will tell.
So what do we have here, on this flagship release for the 'new' death metal scene? Sterility or originality? Derivation or creation?
The best way I can think to introduce this album to you is to say that it's probably everything you are expecting it to be, only much more so. I don't have a problem with saying this is the fastest, most lethal death metal album ever created. After only a few songs into the album, you begin to get that 'kicked in the head' feeling that comes only with the most extreme modern metal bands. This album was written by two guitarists (Rutan and ex-Suffocation axe-slinger Cerrito), produced by a guitarist, and the focus point is obviously going to be on the guitars. In other words: riffing, riffing, riffing. I believe you could take out the drums and bass and this album still would not lose that much power. What you have here are two of the scene's angriest and most innovative guitarists basically trying to out-perform each other and their old bands' material when it comes to the songwriting - pushing death metal kicking and screaming into the new millenium. Certain songs live up to expectation, creating a sound that is almost exactly the Suffocation/Morbid Angel cross ('Spiritual Holocaust' is the best example) that most people were hoping for, but the rest of the album effortlessly blazes a new identity and puts the memory of those bands' contributions to these two guitarists' styles firmly to rest. Make no mistake: this is something new, something completely state of the art.
In fact I really don't think there's any way to adequately describe the guitar work on this album. You just have to listen to it in order to understand.
I have a small amount of trouble even following the riffing here - it is so fast and so rhythmically complex that it often speeds by me before I even get the chance to register it. Because of this, and this album's short length, it begs to be listened to over and over. The soloing is equally interesting: Rutan's lead guitar tone carries the Morbid Angel reverb legacy from 'Domination' while he puts forth eloquent little statements to clarify the rhythm work, and Cerrito's licks and runs are pure hard '90s endtime art. For the most part, however, this album is all about the rhythm work and that display is excellent - some of the best I've ever heard. If you are in any way a fan of either of these guitarists' two earlier bands, or someone who left the death metal scene in disgust at its boring stagnation after the boom of the late-80s/early-90s, I would recommend you pick this up and give it a listen or two. Or more...