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I’ve recently read on Deathchain’s homepage that according to them, Death Gods is the best thing they ever did. I’m fond of Death Gods, really, and I understand Deathchain’s need to advertise the latest album, but must it be done through diminishing the previous releases' worth? I guess the fans of Rotten-fronted Deathchain became pissed off having been informed that their cult Deaththrash Assault was worse than Death Gods. I don’t like Deaththrash Assault, but I adore the other three albums, so the above mentioned statement aroused my anger too (What the hell? They tell me that Death Eternal is not perfect, uh?!). To protest against such injustice and neglect I decided to write a laudatory review of the most underestimated Deathchain’s album. It’s like pissing against the wind, I’m aware of that, yet it’s the only thing I can do.
The best perspective from which this album should be viewed is the one of Kai Jaakkola’s fan. Maybe he isn’t the best growler in the world: average skilled; a voice not particularly deep nor strong nor dynamic... oh, and so what?! Fuck objectivity, to me Kai is perfect. Seemingly a rather calm person, yet he sounds like a musically-talented rabid dog. A marvelous, unique combination. Hell, I’d like to marry him and have him home growling a cappella, but it is not that I’m delighted with anything he contributes to (MonsterSpank, yuck!) and certainly I wouldn’t listen to Cult of Death on and on if I didn’t like it thoroughly.
To be frank, I didn’t fall in love with Cult of Death at first riff. I don’t remember feeling any particular sensations during my first encounter with it, except for irritation with Serpent of the Deep’s chorus (how could it have been?!). Yeah, and Pit of the Possessed caught my ear at once. But the more I listened to this album, the more it attracted me.
Well, there are some things about Cult of Death I don’t like. Fortunately, everything bad in this album is stuffed exclusively into Deathammer and Hour of the Exorcist. Above all, they’re so similar! If I heard an instrumental excerpt from one of them I would never guess which of these two it belongs to. Next problem is the lead guitar. Its sound is generally too high here which distracts and annoys. And finally, the melody line is weird. These songs do not make harmonic entities; they consist of simple, primitively melodic, and, on the other hand, clamorous, chaotic bits put together interchangeably. Kai sings equally weird, especially in Deathammer. His voice goes up and down again and again (as if he practiced scales), which is really hard to bear, or else he sings a whole verse with hardly any change of note.
But the poor quality of this couple is surpassed by the brilliance of remaining six tracks, three of which are simply masterpieces. Those are Serpent of the Deep, Witchstorm, and Cult of Death. I’ve listened to each of them about hundred times and still can’t get enough.
Serpent of the Deep is a stylized pagan prayer. The atmosphere here is exotic and suggestive, and (despite Kassara’s insane drumming) the song goes on lazily and very rhythmically; it hypnotizes and takes you into an Akkadian temple to join a ritual of serpent’s calling. Summoning requires some kind of monotony, therefore frequent repetition of the serpent’s name is justified. But they’re by no means boring (however, to discover this you need to let the song carry you away). It’s an absolutely unique and fascinating piece of music. If Serpent existed, it would certainly appear summoned this way.
By the way, the music video made for this track is great too. Nothing special, one may say, no story in the background, just the band on stage. True, but they (especially their hair, instruments, and hands) are filmed in such a beautiful way that you gasp in amazement. It's singularly impressive when compared with a hilarious video for Pit of the Possessed.
Witchstorm, on the other hand, is a dynamite, clear reminiscence of band’s past (I mean, with a thrash component in the foreground because in Cult of Death clearly death prevails). An excellent one for intensive headbanging. It has great lyrics which drag you into a story of witch hunting and revenge. You can almost see the stakes in flames and smell the burnt body.
Finally, Cult of Death. This one is…I can’t find words to describe it properly. Epic would be adequate, for sure. An intro makes you hold your breath in expectation of what would happen next. And then comes Kai’s thrillingly delightful prolonged growl and you instantly have goosebumps all over (at least I have). After that, the song develops beautifully. It gradually speeds up more or less until the chorus and then slows down with a motive already known from the intro, then the final part begins which is a pure thrash blast. Magnificent.
This music may be compared to thick hot sauce, and you know how it is with a dish as such: not everyone likes it, and those who do know that it should be properly served to taste best. Cult of Death is therefore not a good choice for a party or as a background music while you’re working. If you listen carelessly, you’ll be left with an impression of hearing only monotonous repetitions of riffs and lyrical phrases. Nah, this album needs a listener’s full attention. Being given it, Cult of Death will pay you back with a great load of pleasure.
After two energetic thrash cacophonies these guys come back with some pretty mediocre tired stuff. The quality of the music is just lacking. The new singer is kind of monotone. Not in that Chris Barnes burp monotone, but this guy isn't Rotten. The music has more in common with death metal this time around, and there's some subtle melody. This could have been a cool thing, but it's very weak and tired sounding.
We start with Deathammer, and pretty much it's Deathchain watered down. The riffs just aren't very interesting at all. Nothing really commands headbanging. It's just kind of ....there. It may be weird to think of Deathchain as a progressive band, but on the first two albums they'd rarely repeat themselves and the song structures would very interesting. Riffs used to pop out of nowhere and slaughter babies and/or small mammals, but here everything is too calculated. The riffs repeat a bit too often and it can just be plain annoying. Much of this album blends together and not in that cool Demolition Hammer/Reign in Blood style. This is just bland and lifeless. Songs like Hour of the Exorcist, which has a pretty sweet title, is absolutely vapid of any hook or catchy riffwork as shown in previous albums. Pit of the Possessed? Slayer wants it's Angel of Death thrash break back, and not repeated three different times throughout the song. Serpent of the Deep, stupidest fucking chorus ever. I guess repeating the song title 12 times like Corpsegrinder with down syndrome. This band shouldn't slow down honestly. It gets really uninteresting. Take the Slayer song Seasons in the Abyss, instead of the slow evilness with the clean guitar parts similar to that song we get some ridiculous whole notes, with some random clean guitar over it. No atmosphere at all. In the Crypt of Vengence. Snore, more of the same. Except this one has a "Where the Slime Live" type of feel to it at parts. That's a horrible Morbid Angel song by the way. Where are the solos?
Yeah, this is boring. Really. If you're new to Deathchain this may seem amazing, but this crap compared to the first two.
Highlights.....uhhh....Necrophiliac Lust is the closest you get to one, but half way through it just sounds like the rest of them. Go get the first two albums, they are far better.
Deathchain were going to be the saviors of thrash. They had everything any thrash enthusiast wanted: speed, power, frantic vocals; the works. Their past two albums, more so with “Deathrash Assault”, were prime examples of how to thrash in this generation. Then they decided to get rid of their vocalist “Rotten” (who might’ve left on his own accord, but no one knows except the band) and replace him with what they proclaimed to be a better fit for the band, and a more experienced vocalist. So the rest of us waited, hoping that they’d still be able to keep the fire strong. Then, they released their video for the track “Pit of the Possessed” and it was in that moment that it all came together:
Deathchain were killing themselves.
Unlike “Deadmeat Disciples” and “Deathrash Assault” were thrash took the edge over death metal, “Cult of Death” puts a heavy emphasis on their death metal roots. Most of the frenzied, intense riffing is gone in place of a more grinding, heavier sound. It even seems like, from the production, that they wanted this to sound like a death metal album from the early 90’s, since the production seems a bit flatter and doesn’t pack that huge “thump” as with their past ones.
This album, for lack of a better word, is generic. K.J. Khaos, the new vocalist, is who appears to blame for this. His vocal work is absolutely boring, as he sounds just like every other extreme metal vocalist in the industry. On the opener “Deathammer”, he lets out a growl in the silence to open up the track, but all that does help the listener reach the conclusion that this going to be as dull as his voice. It’s true, since while the opening, pounding riff to “Deathammer” has the potential to cause head banging, Khaos’ vocals and repetitive riffs from Bobby and Corpse will have you hitting the “skip” track about halfway through. The sad thing is that it never gets any better.
Unlike on “Deathrash Assault”, where each song could be picked out from the rest, the tracks on “Cult of Death” are overly repetitive to the point that the genre of thrash itself should feel ashamed. While most have something slightly unique (like “Pit of the Possessed's" slower intro), once the main riffs kick in, it sounds like the song before that, and the song before that, etc., etc. Listening to “Cult of Death” is like shooting yourself in the foot, because after each track, you keep hoping for something better, only to hear the same, shitty sound again. Corpse and Bobby are unbearable on guitar this time around, since they hold off on soloing (though some tracks have them, but they aren’t even worth mentioning) in order to add a heavier atmosphere. It gets annoying, since they’ve proven themselves skilled before. Not only that, their riffs, such as on “In the Crypt of Vengeance” and the title track are as interesting as slamming your head in a door repeatedly. Mix that in with Kassara’s drumming, which is virtually the same beat for every damn song, and you’ve got a snooze-fest. Even the lyrics, which have Khaos spitting out lame lines like “The priest is lost, He got demonized!”, are (nearly) as dumb as the music.
Some say that time heals wounds, so let’s hope that this is the case for Deathchain. Maybe they’ll fix the relationship with Rotten and get him back, because it seems like all that Khaos has brought to the table is dull music. Until they come back with something new (and hopefully 10-times better), just go get “Deathrash Assault” and head bang till you get whiplash; it’s your safest bet.
Overall – 10%
I won’t recommend any tracks, since they all suck. But one of the riffs on “Deathammer” was cool so if you have to, try that.
Deathchain maintained its place in my watch list after two successful albums. I impatiently waited for the new album to come but still, I wondered how the vocalist change would affect Deathchain. I saw that the answer is not for the good. With this album Deathchain went more death metal than thrash. The music has grown more American. It’s clear that with the new vocalist K.J. Khaos, the band has evolved into a more death metal style. There are blast parts played on melodic guitar rhythms which make it sound like black metal at times.
The vocal is a mixture of harsh and scream vocals. Nevertheless, it comes from rather deep and is rather low. Personally, I don’t like the vocals. The album could have been better with higher pitch vocals closer to the surface of the music (yes, I’m a thrash freak). The sound comes from beneath. It sounds like you have a glass cage between you and your speakers and the singer screams more trying to override the instruments - but he can’t. Guitars have a melodic death tone. But, the leads are not sufficient and variations are maintained through slowing down the tempo and/or rhythm changes. This is something I hate in death metal bands. It is just like an easy way out of the necessity for a decent lead. Some clean tone guitar parts are used as well. Drummer is fast and plays very well. The alto solos are just as good as rhythms.
In conclusion, this album is not the kind of follow-up I expected from Deathchain. It’s the common thought among the metal scene that the change stems from the change of the vocalist. Going more death and leaving thrash could have been better. However, if the band has decided to insist on this new style, this must be considered as a first release and we should wait for the next albums. Some production related improvement is also necessary. All I can say is: Better luck next time.