Review Summary: Both relentless and technical in its musical aggression, Massacra’s second album is one of the best overlooked gems in early 90’s death metal.
The late 80’s/early 90’s was a very fruitful time not just in the mainstream but in the underground metal scene as well. The groundworks of more extreme metal genres has already been developed but they still didn’t formed into solid ones and this middling period had spawned bands and albums that were on the invisible musical frontiers that separated these genres. To be clearer, there were thrash bands with a sound so brutal, violent and intense that they were closer to the developing death metal scene then others, and similarly the first major death metal bands carried many characteristics of thrash metal in their early years. Massacra is one of these bands.
Formed in 1986, and releasing their first record “Final Holocaust” in 1990, Massacra took the ultra-fast, vicious riffing of bands like Kreator, Slayer or Sepultura, and they pushed that to an even higher level. Resulting in a combination of hyperactive and sometimes unpredictable riffing, and just enough hooks for the listener to not lose focus, constant drum fills, chaotic guitar solos, and growling vocals. Much like the early recordings of Death, Morbid Angel or Possessed, “Final Holocaust” was a perfect blend of both thrash and death metal. Their second album “Enjoy the Violence” took the next step, maintaining some of the thrasher roots but also evolving their music closer to the kind of old-school death metal, we all know and love.
It would be easy to simply describe Massacra’s music by simply listing the adjectives that one can associate with thrash/death metal hybrids, like “heavy”, “fast” and “ferocious” but the nature of the music is one thing. It’s also the execution that makes these guys so good. Guitarists Jean-Marc Tristani and Frederick Duval (or as he called himself Fred Death) both shows themselves as exceptional axemongers as they compile dozens of twisting riffs into complex multi-layered songs with multiple yet fluid tempo changes, atmospheric breakdowns and blazing leads. Bassist Pascal Jorgensen and drummer Chris Palengat also giving their best as the rhythm section, making a perfect and equally hard-hitting companionship to the crazed, maniac guitar work.
While “Final Holocaust” is a great record it is also a bit exhausting to listen, due to its overreliance on pure speed and chopping. “Enjoy the Violence” on the other hand is a much more balanced and thought out record that shows more variety in the songwriting. Every song of this record is well-written and performed whether if it’s blast beat dominating pure death metal assaults like the title track or “Atrocious Crimes”, a slower, doomish track like “Full of Hatred”, or “Seas of Blood” which transits seamlessly between mid-paced and breakneck sections. The production is also a big step up from the rather lo-fi and thick sound of “Final Holocaust”, as the instruments and the vocals are both clearer, yet punchier and heavier at the same time. The vocals are also more grueling making the music sound even closer to the US-based pioneers of death metal.
Massacra’s first two records still to this day remain a hidden yet great chapter of extreme metal music as they show band with fully realized potential and musicianship. It’s a damn shame that this story cannot continue happily from here as their switch to groove metal on later albums were a criminally big stepdown form all aspects and Frederick Duval’s early death in 1997 from skin cancer marked the end what could have been a long-lasting and musically rewarding career. Still if you want some pure, distilled version of early 90’s metal mayhem, give “Enjoy the Violence” a listen. You won’t regret it.