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Strong Effort - 83%

deluge71, April 29th, 2008

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.