Review Summary: Chuck Schuldiner proves his chops yet again; this time the winning formula is a combination of technical and progressive.7 of 7 thought this review was well written
If one were to toss all of Death’s major releases into a CD player and hit play, the following 5 or so hours of music would be a steady progression from harsh and raw to crisp and refined, from simple song structure and minimal technicality to unbridled and magnificent virtuosity, and most of all from good to absolutely astounding. From their early days as a thrash/death outfit to this album they have changed a great deal, but Chuck Schuldiner remains the key factor and the defining element, managing to release no two identical albums and yet improve upon every release.
The final installment in the Death discography sees a totally different line-up than the previous album, Symbolic. Gene Hoglan moved on to Strapping Young Lad and was replaced by Richard Christy, a session drummer/comedian, and Scott Clendenin on bass and Shannon Hamm on guitar round out the lineup. The addition of Christy may be one of the most important elements of this album. His drumming is lightning fast and perfectly precise, yet he refrains from typical death metal style double bass obsession (which has it’s place, just not here). Songs like “Scavenger of Human Sorrow” and "Painkiller” showcase his tremendous ability both to play well and to avoid overpowering the music.
Perhaps the only part of he album that overshadows the drums is the fantastic guitar work of Mr. Schuldiner. Every song has a number of great riffs and devastating hooks, especially “Bite the Pain” and “Spirit Crusher”. Chuck pulled out all the stops on this album created a true masterpiece of metal, chock full of awe-inspiring licks and solos. Don’t listen to those who bitch and moan about “wankery” – there is very little on this album that is superfluous, and if you can’t handle a tharshtastic little lick here and there I don’t know what you’re doing near a “technical” anything album. This is one of those albums that makes you understand why the guitar is as tremendous an instrument as it is, and the result is an album with no filler and no down time, just pure insanity.
And that’s not all Chuck did to make this album outstanding: the vocals and lyrics really are exquisite. His voice on this album is overflowing with emotion and creates great tension and intense anguish at times. On top of that the lyrics are very well written, very insightful and, wonderfully, intelligible. While lyrics are rarely important to me here they add a whole extra dimension to the album, and are just one more element perfectly executed. The cover of “Painkiller” is perhaps the vocal highlight, as Schuldiner is able to equal Halford’s performance with his own flair – some of the notes he hits are jaw-dropping. This is a death metal release you’ll find yourself singing along to.
The more I listen to this album, the more I love it. The songs are memorable and catchy but totally original and always interesting, and successive listens to this album in no way diminish the songs. Most astounding of all is that this album makes you feel happy. It’s not uplifting or even inspiring in sound or message, but there’s something about how wonderful it is that really gets at you. At the same time, it’s extremely metal, extremely fast and at times very heavy. Everything about this album makes it one of the best Death releases ever, and, despite it’s tend to polarize, an extremely important death metal release.