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This album has only two views from fans of Death. Either that they despise and call it wank or they love it. I hold the latter opinion in that little debacle, as you can obviously tell from my ridiculously high score.
Alright, well, I'll start off with the very few cons.
Firstly, the lack of outrageous bass patterns saddens me. Though Scott created a very good set of lines, and performed them skillfully and had stage presence, he could've played some more interesting bass solos/lines. For instance, even though I love the intro Spirit Crusher...it isn't much beyond the first guitar riff.
Secondly, and lastly, the Painkiller cover. Even though I think Chuck had a ridiculously good voice on this song I just didn't like it...the near monotous Halford vocals are gone and that slightly angers me. It just doesn't sound that right, to me.
Now, onto the good parts of the album. Quite a few at that.
The guitar sound? For Chuck and co. to be using solid state amps, this album has rather good guitar tone. A perfect crisp punch without leaving out the powerful bass presences. The leads are enhanced by chorus and reverb pedals, thus giving them intensly spacey and melodic vibes. The riffing is incredible, shifting from the now necessary Death pedal point riffing to the straightforward powerchord-chug-power chord formula reminiscent of any Death song.
The riffs...OH THE RIFFS. I'm normally not one to orgasm mentally over riffs, but these riffs are so good and so solid that I can't help but point them out. Many people claim this album lacks substantial riffing as it is "technical wankery" but this album is honestly chock-full of nasty riffs. Particulary in songs like A Moment of Clarity and Spirit Crusher. Then the solos...standard Chuck fare, tapping occaisional mini-sweeps and lots of melodic minor shredding. My favorites.
The guitarist for this album, and the Control Denied album, Shannon Hamm is a good guitarist. He manages to do well enough when called upon in studio but his live performance is horrid. The only thing that redeems him is his energy on stage.
Now, onto the bass. Fairly prominent, and very good. Look up at the cons for my disagreements on the basslines.
Anyways, the drums. Many people attest Gene Hoglan to be the best Death drummer, but after inspections of this album it is easily proven that Richard Christy flays any attempt by Gene. His ridiculously technical patterns into simple D beat stuff into the usual metal double bass pattern form is extremely effective on this album. He never goes off time and his fills and accuracy are completely professional.
Then, the lyrics. We stumble upon what most call the idiotic part of later Death. But, to be honest, these are Chuck's most truthful lyrics and show through a more "real" image of the main man. They vary from spirituality topics to those of the unknown, the dead, and stories of fictional creatures.
Related to the lyrics is the songwriting. Many people push off this albums writing as too pretentious and that is fairly justified as this album is rather progressive. Though, what is not justified is calling the album shit because of that. The songwriting is still comprehensive of death metal and adopts the conveniences of progressive metal and power metal.
Nearly finally, the vocals. Chuck shifted vocal styles rapidly throughout the years of Mantas and Death. Originally formatting a raspy growl to his liking, he changed in five years to a slightly higher shriek which eventually led to the vocals on this album. As the goddess said previously, they are like razors. The vocals pierce and screech their way through the album, never letting any tension go. On occaisions Chuck can be heard letting lose his full body through the mic (see: Spirit Crusher's ending choruses).
Now it's finally the production values. The album is produced with a perfect mix. Rarely does one find a perfect death metal album in terms of mixing. The few that there are include: Cannibal Corpse's The Wretched Spawn, Incantion's Onward to Golgatha, this album, and Deicide's Legion. When you get perfectly mixed albums like those you hear damn near musical perfection. Every instrument is perfectly high in the mix, even the bass. The vocals are rather loud, but do not intrude on the music.
Well, that's about it from me. I recommend this album if you are a fan of death metal with progressive tendencies and power metal shrieking.
Best songs? Honestly, all of them, though Story to Tell and Spirit Crusher hold rather high places. No bad songs, in my mind either.