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Promising and punishing, apart from the logo - 70%

autothrall, January 19th, 2011

Mortal Agony might just be the ugliest sight in all of 80s German thrash metal (in this case more due to the awful lettering than the surreal, mad science imagery), but it's definitely not the ugliest music. The band spent a few years post-formation honing in on a ballistic hybrid of their Teutonic contemporaries Destruction and Sodom with a few Bay Area influences, most notably Exodus in the rich, thrashing guitar tone, and the result is a debut that is still listenable over two decades later. The album does seem a little lop sided in content, with most of its strongest tracks placed towards the beginning, yet it reeks of a potential that the band sadly never saw through in the remainder of their career.

As mentioned, the guitars are a huge component of the band, not only for their excellent tone, but also the willingness to take a few risks that pay off. These are heard in the strange structure of "The Unborn", a paranoid nightmare given molten flesh as Chris Zenk's haughty barks erupt over interesting riffs that marry Kreator's Terrible Certainty and Voivod's Dimension Hatross. Or "Erosion/The Way of Force", the album opener, which cycles through a meaty and disposable instru-mosh sequence to a vicious precipice of angry mid-paced riffing ala Exodus and Vio-Lence, in addition to some great speed licks and escalating percussive breaks. Also curious, the chugging apocalyptic "Aftermath" and the calamitous "False Prophets", but there are also a few energetic, standardized chargers like "Bilharzia" and "Nuclear Frost" that do not disappoint if you like your thrash pissed off. For some reason, I just feel like the album trails off in quality, with the final moments ("Humanity" and "The King") offering nothing new that we hadn't already heard prior with better riff casings.

Compositional comparisons could be drawn from this to Destruction's Release from Agony, but Erosion took on more of a weighted, abrupt ballast than the surgical, drug addled atmosphere created by Schmier and Mike Sifringer. Both albums take a few chances, which don't implode on the respective bands, but where Release from Agony is more layered, labyrinthine and cold, this record seems more hell bent on pleasing the mosh pit, like a mix of Release from Agony and Pleasures of the Flesh. The musicians are pretty good, with Chris Zenk mixing up some Tom Angelripper and Mille Petrozza tones with the snarling bark of Sabbat's Martin Walkyier or the rupturing force of Holy Terror's Keith Deen; pretty unique among a slew of second tier German thrash bands who were merely recycling Petrozza or Schmier. That said, Mortal Agony doesn't really have enough of the 'moments' that define a great thrash album. It's solid, and effective more often than it isn't, but only worth checking out if you like to delve deep into the underground gems you might have missed.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

Abrasive, progressive-tinged thrash - 65%

dalecooper, March 19th, 2007

I had never heard of this band until I stumbled across a review of this album on another site. I sought it out and am well pleased with the results.

Erosion on this, their debut album, played a ferocious and somewhat technical brand of thrash. Not quite Sadus or Kreator-fast, the band nevertheless keeps things going at a good clip. Even their mid-tempo sections feature frantic vocals and lots of clipped extra beats in the riffs to make you feel like the velocity is higher than it really is. This is a pretty fast thrash album that feels faster than that. I like it.

The riffs here are interesting and memorable, a nice surprise from a band that I'd never heard of and which has no reviews (as of this date) on the Encyclopedia, here. It's straight-up thrash for the most part with a cold, technical bit inserted here and there - some subtle harmonies reminiscent of Voivod or Coroner. Nice touch. The drummer is very good at what he does, holding tempo and playing pristine if uncomplicated fills to keep things driving forward. The bass is not doing much, which is a pity - this band could have benefited from a more audible and flashy bass player, like Sadus had. Ah well. The vocals are the final piece of the puzzle, and I really appreciate them - they are mid-pitched, sort of punk-influenced shouts/growls that sound as big as all outdoors. Really aggressive, and really fits the music. I'd put their singer somewhere between Max from Sepultura and the guy from Evildead.

The production on this release is balanced well, leans a little more toward the treble side than the bass, and is a bit noisy throughout. It's effective and gives the music a sharp edge. The sound isn't overly heavy but when the band is going fast it really works. It's only problematic on slower tracks like "Aftermath" or the opening of "Paralyzed-Mortal Agony" - something this doom metal-slow needs more heaviness to it. When the band is going fast as on "Bilharzia," they are most effective.

Overall you could do worse than Erosion's "Mortal Agony," if you like this kind of late 80s, semi-technical thrash.