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Avid slasher movie fans will no doubt be drawn to the signature homage to a number of death scenes in the "Friday The 13th" series, but circa 1990 the British born Cancer was a newcomer that couldn't quite boast such an impressive following as said horror institution. In typical fashion for the early days of the genre, this band plays in a similar mode to a number of more extreme thrash metal bands, highlighting a crisp, slender punch to their production that isn't quite as dank and muddy as would become commonplace a little further down the line. In fact, one could rightly argue that the very conventional approach taken on "To The Gory End" might be to blame for the band not becoming the longstanding institution that Benediction or Sepultura would, despite sounding no less competent and aggressive at their craft.
The general feel of this album is fast and furious, taking some obvious cues from "Schizophrenia" and "Beneath The Remains", though upping the ante in a few respects. Vocalist John Walker has something more akin to a Carcass-growl quality to his voice, adding an eerie sort of whispered character to a sound that is anything but subtle. Combined with a guitar sound that's brutally heavy enough to stand toe to toe with Cannibal Corpse's "Eaten Back To Life", but cohesive enough to resemble the early works of Death, it straddles that thin line separating the 80s sound from that of the 90s and offers up an interesting mix of technical flair and brevity. The lead guitar work takes on a much more orthodox character in line with the noisy, wild character of Kerry King, in contrast to the riff work which is a bit more restrained and groove oriented than the tremolo-drenched tendencies of "Reign Of Blood".
The songs themselves stand quite strong, though when taken as a whole, this album does tend to sound largely the same and doesn't quite meet the mark of a varied effort. Shorter blazers such as "C.F.C." and "Into The Acid" definitely have their points of interest and do a good job of combining slower, groovier breakdowns along with the merciless slaughter of speed that goes with the Death and Sepultura influences going on here. The most intricate and elongated of these 9 chapters "Imminent Catastrophe" follows the same basic pattern of chaos with a few moments of half-time, though taking on a little bit more of a sorrowful, doom quality. Ultimately the one song that truly shows some real staying power is the title number "To The Gory End", which introduces itself with a creepy synthesizer theme before launching into a mixture of blinding fury and Metallica styled mid-tempo nastiness with some atmospheric clean guitar elements. At times, one can hear elements of what would be incorporated into the early black metal works of Gorgoroth, Darkthrone and Immortal going on in this song, though missing the characteristic frosty feel of the guitars.
With a renewed interest in older thrash and death metal going on of late, it would be nice to see a largely unsung album finally get some much needed love, and this is among the more eligible candidates insofar as the early 90s goes. It's not quite as captivating and gripping as their magnum opus "Death Shall Rise", but it is cut from a similar grain. It should particularly catch the eye of anyone with a love for the production work of Scott Burns, whose brilliant sense of balance brings otherwise average songs such as "Sentenced To The Gallows" that extra combination of fright and brutality by establishing a clear separation between the pounding electric guitars and the smoothness of the occasional non-distorted or acoustic one. The fact that the man depicting on the album art is about to lose his face should not mean that this fine collection of songs should remain without one to the general death metal public.