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DEATH's latest album, The Sound of Perseverance, is certainly the finest Death album and the best metal album of 1998. Period. Words almost fail when trying to capture the brilliance of this album, but I'll give it a try. It's like the perfect Death album, a series of perfect balances - progressive yet catchy, simple yet brutal. It sums up everything Chuck has done on every previous album, takes it to the next level, and still manages to make it even better than you'd expect.
The song structures are much more involved than previous albums, making some of the songs almost like progressive-metal 'songscapes', but you never get lost in a swirl of indulgent technicality - the riffs themselves are to-the-point, visceral; you can sing riffs from songs like "Flesh and the Power It Holds" or "A Moment of Clarity" all day long. However, the blazing riffs or human-whirlwind drums on songs like "To Forgive is to Suffer" or "Scavenger of Human Sorrow" still wow the listener over and over, making one wonder where Chuck manages to find guitarists and drummers with three arms. . .
I could almost go song by song and write essays, but in the interests of space I'll just touch on the highlights: the opener, "Scavenger of Human Sorrow", is like the whole album in miniature - it goes everywhere without losing focus and still manages to say something profound. "Spirit Crusher" has some of the best 'hooks' on the album, and some of the best guitar arrangement. "Flesh and the Power it Holds" is simply a masterpiece of mood/feel swings - the opening minutes are pure sublime majesty, the middle solo section is incredible (Schuldiner at his best, easily), but they still manage to throw in a lot of fierce riffing through the verses and choruses. "Voice of the Soul" is a fantastic guitar-only composition, layered harmonies over acoustic/clean guitar strumming. "A Moment of Clarity" is my personal favorite song on the album - a progressive delight that covers more ground in nine minutes than most bands do in their entire careers (and has one of the coolest harmony solos ever recorded!). And finally, their cover of JUDAS PRIEST's "Painkiller" rules - quite a bit rawer than the original, and with more adventurous solos, but don't believe the crap he's been getting over the vocals - they totally rule. And so does this album. Get it NOW - your soul depends on it!
(Originally published in Eternal Frost Webzine #5 and LARM (c) 1999)