Review Summary: Nuclear Death's third and final album with their core line-up. A classic and a personal favourite.1 of 1 thought this review was well written
Nuclear Death were an original, morbidly bizarre and utterly filthy death metal/grind group out of Phoenix, Arizona. Their debut "Bride of Insect" brought disgusting, unkempt and blazingly speedy death/grind chock full of oddities that would set them far apart from their contemporaries, while their follow-up "Carrion for Worm" sunk that style into a murky low-end haze adding sludge-tinged and almost psychedelic-like influences to the putrid stew of their sound. Their third and final album siphoned out the most wretched, bizarre, sludgy, mucky, hallucinogenic and vomit-inducing aspects of the sound they had laid out and puked them into the most sickening cacophony imaginable. The sum of two legendary albums is the most vile, unrelenting and horrible thing to reach the metal underground: All Creatures Great and Eaten.
Setting aside all this giddy fanboy worship for a moment... "All Creatures Great and Eaten" (combined on CD with the "For Our Dead" EP) is the full realization of what Nuclear Death had been working toward since 1986. It incorporates the waves of dissonant distortion, the blazing grinding paces, the sludgy, agonizing breakdowns and most importantly eccentricities and oddities that move Nuclear Death's third album from an enjoyable death/grind classic to a legendary, monolithic and unparalleled accomplishment. It takes a certain ear to appreciate something so under produced, harsh, filthy and abrasive, so as usual I issue a disclaimer forewarning sensitive ears: This stuff hurts. Oh boy does it hurt.
Interestingly the cleanest Nuclear Death's production got was on their 1990 debut, with the following two albums degenerating in their own ways. Many have complained that "Carrion for Worm" is so low end it makes some of the faster riffs indistinguishable, and that "All Creatures Great and Eaten" is so trebly and sparse it sounds weak compared to their other material. I agreed with these judgments until I let my ears penetrate the muck of these low-fi wonders, eventually allowing me to judge them more or less on the merits of the music and come to appreciate the horrendous production in a way. Furthering the problem for many is the low quality rips circulating on the internet and the great difficulty in finding their albums on CD (the only reissues were in 2001). Anyhow, this stuff is buried in fuzz and not always easy to distinguish, which will immediately put off many listeners.
Each song typically begins with hideous distortion ringing out and either shooting into a blazing fast grinding riff in a haze of murky fuzz or letting loose a pummeling, primitive slower and sludgier riff with chunky chords chugging and ringing out with an agonizingly dissonant tone (but don't expect some Southern-sounding Eyehategod riffs). In the speedier sections the riffs are mostly tremolo picked with strange chords and buzzing repetitive rhythms that would almost be reminiscent of black metal if they weren't heaped in a grinding maelstrom. The bass is mostly inaudible but plays into the low end fuzz adding a fuller and thicker sound especially in the pounding mid-paced riffs. In general the riffs are tinged with a sickly odd sound I will again and again describe as "dissonant". Lori Bravo (bass/vocals) and Phil Hampson (guitar) really hit their stride on this album, making song after song and riff after riff of intensely harsh and disgusting filth. The drums are either violently pounding on the toms or blasting behind walls of distortion, but don't let that fool you into thinking Joel Whitfield is some knuckle-dragging blast beating slouch. The percussion and riffs have a slightly off-time interplay that gives everything a strange off-kilter sound I've heard sometimes referred to as "playing behind the beat", adding a certain distinctive quality to the sound I really dig. Also, the patterns Mr. Whitfield chooses on the toms and cymbals in the slow to mid paced parts are bizarrely primitive adding to the theme of primal violence employed by the group. Ms. Bravo's vocals are most especially of note. I can't stress enough how integral her vocal style is to the sound and atmosphere of the music. She screams and grunts with speedy delivery during the fast parts and really lets loose when the slower riffs crawl in, terrifyingly belting out gut-churning screams in the most heinously bizarre tone over already sickeningly heavy, weird and violently pounding music.
The final three tracks constitute a chilling epilogue exploring some stylistically different realms and delving deepest into the bizarre hallucinogenic themes littered throughout this putrescent classic. We begin with "Aunt Farm", a haze of distortion and buzzing riffs worked into a droning ambiance with a horrific tone as Lori Bravo screeches and gurgles away. Then we pound into a true classic, "A Dark Winter Psalm", a track that exemplifies every aspect of this album and features the most haunting of Lori Bravo's vocal performances. The final track, titled "All Creatures Great and Eaten" finishes this morose journey with another surprise: an almost alternative rock sounding riff with Lori Bravo chanting clean vocals in between filthy grinding riffs. And thus ends the third and final chapter of the initial run of Nuclear Death, closing the book on their legacy of filth.
Nuclear Death were an innovative, strange and horrific band with an dark sense of humour behind their sickeningly morbid and disgusting themes (which is absolutely perfect for death/grind). From the break-neck thrashing of "Bride of Insect" to the horrendous, hazy, sludgy and seemingly almost psychedelic "All Creatures Great and Eaten" Nuclear Death established a truly classic sound that remains untouched. Their final album as a trio stands as my favourite of the group (Lori Bravo continued using the name as a solo project for two albums), and is the perfect send off for the glorious merging of these three bizarre musicians. This album is most definitely a personal favourite and I will continue to worship it wholeheartedly. The only possible criticism I could construe is that it's too short (the album on its own clocking in at only 20 minutes), although since it's usually teamed up with the equally potent "For Our Dead" EP which this review also takes into consideration, it totals at the reasonable length of roughly a half hour. While it is highly abrasive, there's no reason the seasoned old school death metal/grind fan wouldn't enjoy it, so long as they can stomach the production. For the average listener, this stuff takes some getting used to and will generally repel more than it attracts. If that remains the case, that's just more Nuclear Death for me. I give this album the absolute highest recommendation. Prepare to be engrossed in a murky bog of filth, corpses, hallucinations and horrific sights and sounds.