Review Summary: Highly underrated and fairly obscure speed metal fronted by a guitar-god.
I still remember buying this album by chance when I was in Jr. High - during the time period when I was buying tapes based on the song titles and cover art. Surprisingly, this album remains in my top picks - some 15 years later. Why? I struggle with that question as Rigor Mortis is a seldom mentioned band. You do not read many articles with bands of today citing these guys as influences.
Maybe they are not direct influences, but their self-titled debut is certainly ahead of its time. When I first heard this album, I was blown away - it stood apart from everything 1988 had to offer. Particularly in production and guitar-style. Guitarist Mike Scaccia (whose talents would later be tragically wasted with Ministry) carries his band through 10 scorching fast songs of proto-death/black metal. Scaccia's heavy use of tremlo picking and single-string-riffs give Rigor Mortis an incredibly unique sound. He also strays away from traditional power-chord & "chug" riffs that were so prevalent in thrash-metal of the 80s.
Openner "Welcome to Your Funeral" sets the tone for the entire album with this unique guitar-solo-as-riff song writing. When Scaccia does take a solo, it is slayer-fast, but with more melodic purpose behind it. Stand-out tracks are "Shroud of Gloom" and "ReAnimator."
So, enough about the guitar, what about the rest of the band? Casey Orr (later to join Gwar as Beefcake) holds it all together on the bass as there is no rythmn guitar track on this album (further setting it apart). The drumming is very fast and fairly competant, but not necessarily a stand-out. Vocally speaking, Bruce Corbitt shouts Slayer/Punkish tone and sings almost exclusively about horror movies. The lyrics are very blunt and at times quite laughable, but that certainly goes with the genre.
If I were 17 or 18 I would probably still give this album a 5, but over the years some of the tracks have not withstood the test of time and I routinely skip them - "Condemned to Hell," "Wizard of Gore," and "Die in Pain" all seem like filler now. Rigor Mortis would follow with the EP "Freaks" which was much more focused and perhaps a better length for them as their only other LP was chocked full of filler as well.