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Counter to its feeling 'rushed', Vengeance Ascending was actually the proper Diabolic album of 2001, being released only a few weeks after Subterraneal Magnitude had finally arrived (due to delays). That can't be fun for any band, because which do you promote? Well, if I had been Aantar Coates and company, I would have just run with the sophomore, because Vengeance Ascending is one of those 'rush to the finish line' albums which gestates pure speed and brutality, but not much by way of interesting riffs or compelling songwriting. In fact, the one saving grace this album might possess would be the leads, as in "All Evils Inside", which provide about the only tangible journey up and above the monotonous blasting and double bass.
Certainly, the drums are a lot more incessant than the previous two albums, but there's just not that much else happening to distract your ear away from them. "Darken the Imagination" opens as if it were a long lost runoff from Altars of Madness, sans the quality riffing of Azagthoth, and then it bursts through the next 3-4 songs as if some hellish premature ejaculation. The rhythm guitars are functional enough, yet they never quite achieve the mesmerizing patterns necessary to conjure any real malevolence. In fact, if you were to remove the samples, the album would be a total bore up until the bridge/lead sequence in "Marked for Banishment", which is followed with a dark ambient trip called "The Inevitable", through which the listener can take a break before the tightly coiled thrashing that inaugurates "Possess the Strength". But the remainder of the cuts follow the same mired formula of blasted mediocrity, half-decent dynamics and solos thrust into the compositions too sparsely, like oasis of memory in a desert of forgetfulness.
The mix of the album is also less impressive than Subterraneal Magnitude, because it's just so level that nothing other than the leads ever stands out to the fore. They're still using a similar guitar tone to the previous albums, but it feels less potent somehow, failing to distinguish itself from Coates' abyssal battery. The lyrics also felt a little less interesting than the two before, even if its skirting about the same occult pageantry. Diabolic seemed to be going for an all out death race of aggression which would impress those rabble who care for nothing else than sheer wall of force metal with zero immortal qualities, or at the very least a Morbid Angel knockoff, but they wound up with an album that has no real character beyond its barbarian forcefulness and a few spidery, resonant leads.
I think it's safe to assume that many people reviewing this third offering from Diabolic will make it a point to mention that a) they are from Tampa, and b) Joe Petagno did the cover art. While the band may actually benefit from this sort of exposure, these facts are trivial, at most. In its entirety, "Vengeance Ascending" reveals a much greater picture than these stereotypes provide, and to allow either of them to influence your opinion is to sell yourself short. The most obvious indication that Diabolic are serious about their trade is the crazed drumming of Aantar Coates. Coates mixes equal parts of Richard Christy and Dave Lombardo to create a style that is technically furious, but not to the point of overkill. While I can certainly get a thrill out of inhuman displays of aggressive drumming, I am glad that Coates opted to keep things under control. Otherwise, I might have overlooked the stellar leads of guitarists Brian Malone and Jerry Mortellaro. Before giving "Vengeance Ascending" its first spin, I was beginning to think that the ability to craft strong, memorable solos had become a lost art. In fact, a good number of bands choose to omit them altogether these days. Not so for Diabolic, who prove to be of a truly different breed. I say this not for the mere inclusion of solos, but for their quality. In thinking of comparisons, the maniacally twisted trade-offs of Hanneman and King during Slayer's "Hell Awaits" / "Reign In Blood"- era would be a good place to start.
Picking out highlights is difficult, but the most obvious ones are the off-time riffing of "All Evils Inside", and the old-school death metal leanings of "The Shallowed". The latter also impresses with some chilling background vox from bassist Paul Ouelette, whose raspy black metal-ish snarls work well against his usual delivery (which sounds like late Exodus vocalist Paul Baloff in the midst of a testosterone overdose). Among these gems is a well-placed atmospheric track ("The Inevitable"), which combines an air raid siren with ample guitar noise to provide a bit of calm before the head-spinning assault of "Possess the Strength". The album's conclusion comes in the form of "Majestic Satanic", a minor harmony-drenched blitzkrieg that eventually segues into a grandiose outro melody. It may have taken three studio albums to get the world's attention, but Diabolic are now at the top of their game. I'll be damned if they don't turn some heads this time.
The two reviews of Diabolic's Vengeance Ascending are very good. One shows a positive aspect of the album while the other shows a very negative aspect. I tend to agree with the latter, but I will add on to it of course. This album is no different from all the other death metal albums out there. You know the ones that kind of fall in the category of just doing the same thing. Blast beats, technical riffs, growling vocals, etc. etc.
This album has good songs and really bad songs. The first couple of songs are pretty bad, while the middle ones tend to be better. For the most part the riffs are straight power chord progressions with some very technical soloing. The soloing varies from song to song, while most of the times the solos are very sloppy and unimpressive. Sometimes it is like he is just hitting any fret just to fill the solo; these solos lack a model and enthusiasm. The singing is your typical growled death metal vocals. They are very heavy like Kataklysm or Six Feet Under. Nothing special or over the top about the vocals though.
Another thing that stands out is the drummer. I am not a drummer so I am not for sure on how this goes, but the drummer does these rolls on the snare that sound really awesome; and I have to point out I have never heard this type of sound before. The drumming really helps this album pull the pieces together and save it from being a hideous abortion. Otherwise everything is decent about this album. Production sucks at points of the albums also.
What makes this album over all bad is the poor song structure. It's like they didn't even think of how to piece this album together. Like the band showed up in the studio and started playing. Fans of Diabolic might hold this album in higher regards, but I just see it as your typical death metal release. Not bad, but nothing worth spending to much for unless you are a die hard fan. Some of the good songs are The Shallowed, The Inevitable, and Celestial Pleasures.
What you get from Diabolic on this release is basically generic yet semi well done death metal. None of the material on here is fantastic but none of it is horrible either. "Vengeance Ascending" just kinda runs through they course hitting most of the death metal clichés on the way. Still there are enough riffs, solos and blastbeats to satisfy most fans of brutality. The songs themselves sound pretty similar, with only "The Inevitable", an interlude, differing from the bunch so there is no use doing a song by song.
The guitar work definitely has its moments on this CD it just needs to be a bit more consistent. Some decent riffs show up and then there are others that don't really do anything for me. Many of the riffs have been already overly exhausted by other bands of the same genre and Diabolic is obviously content to wrench whatever life is left in them. In terms of style the riffs are mostly tremolo picked with a somewhat murky sound similar to Krisiun (but not as shitty as Krisiun). Where the guitars really shine is during the solos, they are absolutely fantastic. Whether its slow and melodic or vicious and fast paced the soloing is brilliant. A lot of modern bands seem to ignore note selection and are happy to just play as fast as possible with zero memorability, this is not the case with Diabolic which is quite refreshing to hear.
Another point that deserves mentioning is the drummer, Anter Lee Coates. While not extremely creative in any sense he is very good at what he does, all out destruction of his set. The fills and rolls on this cd are almost constant and quite impressive. Aside from the creativity issue there is one other problem that being that he makes a crapload of mistakes throughout. None of them are too major but if you listen to his double bass kick drumming some of the screw ups are quite apparent and frequent. Even though the mistakes do happen I can't really say it takes away from the listening experience in any way.
The vocals, done by Paul Ouelette, are not very noticeable at all. No catchy choruses, no rapid fire delivery, no trade off vocals (a good thing in my opinion), just basic death metal yelling/ growling. The general sound of the vocals is somewhat raspy and monotone. The lyrics are pretty cheesy and as you may have guessed from the band's name are about Satan. More specifically they deal with the triumph of Satanism over Christianity except for "Celestial Pleasures" which is a horribly written song about sex ("Just a slut, into smut, crave her butt", get the idea?).
To wrap everything up "Vengeance Ascending" is a decent addition to your collection but unless you are absolutely obsessed with simplistic death metal it will probably collect dust after about a weeks worth of listening.
As a side note, the copy of the CD I have comes in a slipcase without lyrics, etc. but it does have some pretty cool cover art to make up for it.