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Call it an anomalous phenomenon, but there is something appealing about a familiar sounding album coming from an unfamiliar place. Granted, circa 1991 it wasn't out of the ordinary to hear an album taking its cues from the thrash-infused brilliance of "Leprosy", "Altars Of Madness" or "Beneath The Remains", but having a band come out of the land of Bolt Thrower and Carcass (aka England) that plays in this style is definitely a curious thing. But simply coming out of a novel location alone does not a great album make, and apparently Cancer knew this when they hit the ground running in the early 90s. Suffice to say, this is a band that was in it early on, and what they didn't quite have in originality they more than made up for in nasty, ear-destroying death thrashing quality insofar as "Death Shall Rise, their second LP is concerned.
As a whole, this album could be likened to a rock solid, moderately elaborate structure that rests on a monstrously fortified foundation. Every single piece of this creation acts as a supporting beam of the other, comprising a colossal whole that is insusceptible to any kind of assault via mortal hands or natural disaster. The production (ala Scott Burns of Sepultura fame) is a testament to how the early death/thrash sound can be likened to an iron clad titan, cleaning with a pristine shimmer from the fluttering lead guitar lines, impregnable beneath the density of the crush rhythm guitar sound and the massive battery of the drums, and the face of the beast proves an intimidating glare of hatred in the classical mode in a vocal display that is right along the lines of a mid-ranged bark out of John Tardy or David Vincent from around said time period. The songwriting naturally follows in similar fashion, showcasing an impressive assortment of Slayer and Teutonic Trio influenced mayhem with a slower, almost doom-like trot during the breakdowns that is heavily painted with gloom and agony.
To be sure, this is a band that hasn't given itself over to the always fast, always frenetic approach that was a staple of the genre's genesis under Possessed and early Death material, but is clearly in line with the moderated character that came soon after it and saw atmosphere as being equally as important as velocity and technical flair. "Hung, Drawn and Quartered", the album's lead off chapter, opts for the usual creepy ambient keyboard intro found on an album of this variety, but opts not to put things into full overdrive, but pushes forth at a moderately fast tempo in line with early Obituary and often paces things back to a mid-paced groove that isn't all that removed from a typical Entombed groove. Interestingly enough, it isn't until the 3rd song "Burning Casket" that things turn into a frenzied, thrashing celebration after the traditional Possessed model, and even then the landscape is still painted with a lot of catchy and mid-paced riffs and beats. This mixture of slow and moderately fast serves the band fairly well and dominates most of the album, giving way a bit in the case of "Corpse Fire" and "Internal Decay", both of which go a lot faster, employ frequent blast beats and somehow manage to veer into early Cannibal Corpse territory a bit.
Ultimately, despite all the right elements and being at the right place, at the right time, Cancer didn't take off the way most of their contemporaries did. Be this as it may, just about any self-respecting fan of early death metal should look into this album, as it embodies all of the great elements of the early 90s and almost none of its flaws. It might be a bit presumptuous to put it up there with the likes of "Cause Of Death", "Legion" and "Eaten Back To Life", but it definitely crosses into very similar territory and not only in terms of stylistic attributes. It's definitely the first album to go to insofar as this band is concerned and is deserving of a much bigger audience than what it has managed to attract up until now. Don't be on the wrong side of death when he rises, because according to this album, he has a pretty damned massive scythe to take you out with.