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The culmination for Cancer arrived with Death Shall Rise, an iconic record conceived in the mecca of death metal, in the legendary Morrisound Recording studios, produced by none other than Scott Burns and featuring veteran James Murphy on lead guitars. That combination could not fail so the album remains as the band’s greatest work, a reflection of the Tampa scene splendor. Murphy didn’t stay long as it was supposed to be (remember his ephemeral contribution for Death and Obituary) and these guys found on Barry Savage a discreet replacement. The Sins Of Mankind was never intended to be a sequel of its predecessor, in fact some of its tunes sound kinda thrashy, curiously in a year when that subgenre achieved total decline.
However, there’s still purely death metal numbers here, the opening track “Cloak Of Darkness” or “Patchwork Destiny” have distinctive riffs of the subgenre, synchronized with Walker’s still guttural voice in a song configuration that doesn’t put much emphasis on speed and aggression yet. Those couple of songs determine what most of the rest of the record is gonna be about, with constant progression of guitar lines, varied sequences, rhythm changes and certain difficulty. So their schemes aren’t that alternative from the previous record stuff, although Cancer worked harder on the diversity of riffs and the complication of arrangements here, trying to play it complicated. On “Tribal Bloodshed Part I The Conquest” and “Electro-Convulsive Therapy” is when death meets thrash, whose riffs nature embrace a distinct style from the usual low tuned vivid lines they used to perform. Tempos are also more energetic, at times frantic, reaching terminal velocity on those few blast-beats, though usually there’s no uniformity so rhythms suffer incessant transformation, making these cuts get kinda technical but not impossible. Tenuous refinement can be found too on the acoustic guitar arrangements of “Suffer For Our Sins” and the “Pasture Of Delights” intro, soon disappearing among the group’s common powerful composition execution, hyperactive riffs alterations and ambitious structure versatility. Those clearly defined patterns get repetitive on “Meat Train” and the final “Tribal Bloodshed Part II Under the Flag”, whose riffs don’t evolve much, instrumentally getting stagnant in the same series of notes and chord progression. So this stuff starts lacking the originality by the time the final songs arrive particularly, repeating the same predictable ways, something that makes difficult to notice notable differences between songs with Cancer getting exhausted. On other hand, riffs are generally solid enough to make this material consistent and reasonable.
In general, most of this stuff is quite convincing and competent, well-developed though getting soon slightly generic and common. Musically, it’s weaker than the classics on Death Shall Rise and obviously, Barry Savage wasn’t as inspired and skilled as James Murphy, you can easily notice that on those humble pickin’ parts. But Cancer were determined to make something distinct here, as the thrashy essence of guitar lines and much vigorous tempos prove. Surprisingly, in contrast with the advanced death metal stage most of their peers achieved, these British preferred to include elements of a subgenre that became decadent and unpopular by that time. A risky decision that worked out successfully on most of tunes of the pack, providing them of extra violence and energy, though none of these get really close to the relentless brutality of early Death or Massacre. It’s obvious their intentions weren’t focused on aggression exclusively, as I mentioned they tried to give their music progression and complexity instead, in smaller percentage than Gorguts, Cynic or Cryptopsy’s schemes. These musicians seemed to know their limitations and possibilities so they performed something according to them, with passion, honesty and no excessive pretention. So there’s no vain ambition or tiring difficulty during the album, the weak spots are related with the lack of inspiration and grace the preceding album included. Leading riffs are still decent and sometimes rough, modified properly to design Cancer’s progressive patterns of numerous alternative sequences and instrumental variation. Song configurations make sense but lack continuity mostly on other hand, a handicap those repetitive riffs on the final track specially make evident. And production is unfortunately making this sound weak, too dry and clean, affecting the potential and strength these numbers could have achieved.
This isn’t something you can put in the same level of their second record, although it’s amusing, sometimes really elaborated and heavy. It was a sensible choice to add some thrash characteristics here; in fact the thrashiest compositions are curiously the most memorable. That proved Cancer’s resolution of following a different direction from their subgenre pals, avoiding making bizarre experiments, using keyboards or repeating the same album twice either. Murphy and Burns weren’t there, Mr. Savage didn’t play anything remarkable and his skills were undoubtedly limited so this proves the departure of a single band member can really affect the sound of a group tremendously.
This is not an album you're going to find for very cheap, and considering how middling it is, it honestly would not be worth your money. Though It may be worth a download if you can't have enough old school death metal, because Cancer has prepared a few decent riffs for your consumption this time around. Very thrashy ones actually, and they are pretty memorable. They just didn't really deliver anything else, so this meal is a little lacking on many levels.
But the protein is definitely a good cut of death/thrash goodness. Let's start with the good and work our way backwards. The main riff of the track closer is the best one here, and one listen will permanently ingrain it into your memory. Scattered across the rest of the songs are plenty of great riffs too, with every track having at least a decent slab of good riff work. Surprisingly, the pace tends to stay lower then you would expect. Lingering mostly in the mid-paced realm, which is really a positive for the album as it helps separate this from a lot of the other death metal records in my collection.
That's not to say that EVERY riff is slower, as there are a number of harder hitters like on Cloak of Darkness, Patchwork Destiny, Electro-Convulsive Therapy, and Tribal Bloodshed 1. The rapid muted rhythms are worth some head banging, but the slower riffs are preferred on numbers like Meat Train and Tribal Bloodshed 2. Although every song has at least some significant portions that slow down a bit. The most memorable moments are when the vocal 'melodies' follow the rhythm of the riffs, adding a bit more force to the music.
Though the reason it needs that extra punch is the really weak production. The guitars and drums are so freaking clicky and processed sounding that any chance at atmosphere or forceful concussive riffing is completely taken away. The bass is slightly audible, but it just kind of meanders under the guitar without giving the guitars that low end xeroxing it needs. Think a really clicky And Justice for All... sound and you're in the right ballpark. The clean breaks on Pasture of Delights and the beginning of Tribal Bloodshed 2 actually sound pretty good, albeit the music is very derived and unoriginal.
And that’s the real issue at hand here. I can handle a poor production job. But it is perfectly clear here that little thought was put into song arrangement and structure. Other then riffs, little effort seems to have been put into anything really. The bass follows the guitar with no exception that I hear. The drumming has a couple fills that are noticeable though immediately forgotten, and the vocals have no fire behind them at all.
Worse, those riffs are just kind of splattered across the album with little regard as to how the songs will flow. Plus the lyrics tend to be so mindless (Meat Train. Oh yeah, that's haunting) that you don't really care of what he's half-assedly grunting. So each song might as well be called Riff Compilation 1-8. There is even a sever lack of memorable leads. Only a couple of solos on the whole record, and none that particularly hit you.
In summation, I've had this album for a year and a half as of now, and I never feel compelled to take it out except to 'give it another shot' as it were. And I'm done giving it chances. It is pretty sub-par, and as I mentioned, is only really worth a download if you can't get enough of this sound, because this is third rate death metal. 2 out of 5
Tribal Bloodshed 2
Some scattered decent riffs
Cancer had a good run in the early 90’s with a string of three killer albums, this being the last one before Black Faith (which, admittedly, I haven’t heard).
Cancer played a style of old-school mid-paced death metal which was generally benefited from good production and solid musicianship, which clearly shines on The Sins of Mankind.
The guitar work isn’t stunning, but it’s effective and keeps the listener’s attention with some good (sometimes great) riffs and leads which sound like they were actually planned out (more Morbid Angel and less Deicide, if you can follow this example). The drums and bass are very tightly wound, with a lot of good tempo changes, which adds to the overall quality. And the vocals are more pronounced and stand out from other death metal vocalists; not the generic “swallow the microphone and belch” method that a lot of the demo bands from this era employed (in my opinion, over-used).
There are some flourishes of creativity here: as I mentioned, most of the leads are thought out and actually fit into the songs (Suffer for Our Sins, Electro-Convulsive Therapy), and there are other little odd moments thrown in here and there (acoustic guitars mingling with electric (once again, Suffer for Our Sins, Pasture of Delights / At the End) before a lot of bands tried doing this. It’s highly effective in the context of the songs.
Lyrically, the standard topics are present and accounted for (criticism of organized religion in Cloak of Darkness and Patchwork Destiny; death and gore in Meat Train) and sometimes veer into some not-so-standard topics (a two part war song in Tribal Bloodshed I & II; criticism of the mental health system and medication in Electro-Convulsive Therapy). It’s not written out as an English major might like, but it is effective for a death metal album.
Overall, The Sins of Mankind is a great album if you like your death metal to be old-school, with a few flourishes of thrash, and to be different from the hordes of bands that would flood the shelves in the mid-90’s, and combined some hints of thrash (some of the tempo changes) before a lot of bands started even knowing what death-thrash was. This isn’t quite “classic”, but it’s pretty damned close. I’d recommend this to anyone looking for something new that might have gone unheard the first time around.
This is without a doubt the best Cancer release, why? Because it will make your head bang! Previous Cancer releases were all true classics, but this one stands out for plenty of reasons. Sure, it still has plenty of death metal qualities in this album...which is what this band is known for. Compared to past Cancer albums this one seems to have more riffs and the vocals seem to have better rhythm. Very easily this album could be mistaken for a 1986 release, thrash metal up your ass! Sure like I said the death metal qualities let you know just who they really are, but Cancer take it to a whole new level. The greatest factor in this album is the constant speed to it...there are not many breaks in this album with long and drawn out riffs that get tiresome. A prime example is the track "Patchwork Destiny", it is just relentless and brutal. If you are a fan of Cancer or mainly just love great thrash metal, this one is for you. Did I mention it would make your head bang? Well it will! Cancer are an underrated death metal band that have proved it can have more than just have one sound. Cancer have made a classic here and it should be embraced by all who love metal music.