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It was the cover that got me interested at first, but hey, the classic zombie movie 'Dawn of the Dead' by George A. Romero was, and still is, my top-5 films ever. Then I read the name Cancer and the title of the album... Plus, if you got song titles such as 'Into the Acid', 'Witch Hunt' and 'Die Die', it must be good, right?! Damn right! The heaviest shit I listened to back then was ***censored to keep reviewer's credibility somehow intact***, so this was definitely something new.
Anyways, together with their countrymen Benediction, Cancer was my first touch with English death metal. Both of the bands had similar work ethics: Simple in-yer-face yet catchy song writing, and ominous/sick/eerie feel to the music. "Simple" does not mean boring, it means massive danger of infection. The riffs can be dangerous, sick and haunting. The guitar solos are pure reverbed insanity. The rhythms are straight and tempos can escalate from mid-paced to quite fast drumming for a death metal album recorded in late 80's. I still would not say Cancer had any punk influences, regardless of their simplistic methods to make music. It's never that simplistic, no! There are more than two chords and parts on the songs, you see... The vocals of John Walker (also guitar) are certainly very similar to Carcass' Jeff Walker (I think they aren't related), sounding like infected, mucous throat. So no low growling here, and definitely no clean vocals. Musicians' performances are very good and powerful. Small extra spices bringing in more atmoshere, such as acoustic guitar and keyboards, can be heard on a few occasions.
Soundwise the album is quite live. The loud drums are lifted to the front of the mix. My only nag is the plastic bucket sound of the tom drums. The guitar is shredding and ripping. The bass is a tad lost in the mix, especially during double kick drums beats. But the bass farts in there somewhere... The vocals fit well with the music, sticking out like that machete on a head on the cover. The cover painting is actually bloody awful. Or more like distressing. I wouldn't pin a poster of this cover on my wall. The band's logo is pretty satanic with its Lucifer's tail kind of hooks on the letters. The lyrics are also simplistic, but pretty varied thematically: 'Hellraiser' movies, witch hunts, and dying in different ways.
Even though I'm trying to write something about a truly classic release, I find it quite hard to do. But just like with the compositions and performances here, maybe less is more. This is a great death metal album, and everyone who loves the style must own, or be sentenced to the gallows...