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Groove metal, that dumbed down version of thrash and traditional heavy metal that took hold of the commercial end of the metal world in the early 90s and paved the way for everything that is considered the scourge of what we know and love in mallcore. Like all alleged innovations, this one started off as a rather intriguing one; basically a slower alternative to the speed and fury of the high era of the Bay Area scene with a few interesting rhythmic devices. But not long afterward it immediately collapsed into a fit of mass pandering and self-parody, as can be gleaned from the stark contrast between “Cowboys From Hell” and “Far Beyond Driven”. Fight’s 2nd album “A Small Deadly Space” essentially followed suit and presented a less intricate, awkward, annoying, dumbed down version of “War Of Words” with the weaknesses highlighted and the strengths downplayed.
While the previous Fight album was a rather interesting mixture of crossover elements and Exhorder style riffs repeated often and varied little, it included a fair amount of variety and a strong vocal performance out of Halford. This just abandons all of the positives of that formula and focuses entirely on simplicity and repetition, while the famed ex-Judas Priest vocalist literally avoids sounding like himself. Rob is still recognizable, but the vast majority of the songs on here features a flat sounding, yelled vocal approach that was present on the last album, but also accompanied by some occasional high ranged scream gymnastics to keep things interesting. “Legacy Of Hate” and “Never Again” are exceptions to rule, the latter being among the better songs on here, but both find the vocals sounding closer to an Axel Rose sound mixed with Layne Staley elements.
From one song to the next, this thing just goes through the motions, banging out the traditional verse/chorus format with the occasional guitar solo and doing so in the most predictable manner possible. There’s very little life to the riff work, the drum work is bare bones simple enough to make Vinnie Paul sound like Neil Peart, and the production sound is so processed and dry that the entire album comes off as a slow marching automaton with the most rudimentary of programming. Even quasi-animated half-thrashers like “Beneath The Violence” and “Gretna Greene” function as slightly faster versions of the better elements of Metallica’s famed 1991 stylistic departure (think “Through The Never” and “Holier Than Thou”) and do little more than inspire an occasional head nod at first listen, before the riffs become played out which surprisingly happens in 2 songs that don’t even hit the 5 minute mark.
In much the same respect as with Ronnie James Dio, Rob Halford has generally managed to associate himself with high quality studio work, and this album functions as his “Angry Machines” (we’ll just forget that Two ever happened). This is basically what most of what mainstream metal passed for in the mid 90s, a tired, drawn out set of derivative thrash riffs played at half speed with about half of the feeling, ergo half-assed. And in much the same respect as Machine Head’s “The More Things Change”, Fight actually finds itself taking ideas from Korn (“Mouthpiece” sounds fairly similar to “Blind”, especially that annoying ride cymbal intro). Often groove metal struggles to be good, and at its worst it barely manages to be metal. “A Small Deadly Space” mostly tends towards the former, but every now and then they actually stumble into the latter on here.
I really rarely give less than 40% to an album. Even some early deathcore albums (if you can call it early) get 40% just for trying, but this album exceeds all shitiness in the world, so I'm going to be very short on this one since there's not much to talk about.
It's plain bad. I don't know what Halford was thinking when he recorded this, nor do I know what the other members thought. It's like they desperately tried to sound like "Pantera" or "White Zombie", but they miserably fail. The vocals are crap. I don't know what Rob was thinking about when he turned on all of those unnecessary vocal effects. Was he trying to sound stupid or what? The lyrics are also bad, very bad. No inspiration at all, no motivation, no power...nothing. It's like some retarded version of a mutated Cavalera+Anselmo gay-child wrote them. I rarely trash talk bands, but I do when something really gets on my nerves.
As far as riffage goes, it's totally uninspired. It's bad, not heavy at all, and I don't know what the hell the admins of "The Metal Archives" were thinking when they approved the "thrash/groove metal" classification of this pure shit. The only thing that deserves a score in my album grading system is the drumming, so I give it 20% out of 20%, maximum for a grade and just because everything else sounds like crap.
So all in all, I don't recommend this album to anyone unless you really want to experience the painful and disappointing side of metal (If you can call this metal).
I don't know what was Rob thinking when he decided to do this, but this is the worst record that he has done (Priest made even worse albums, but without him).
Or maybe he was possessed, I don't know. What I know for sure is that this album is pure 90's metal, and while not as complete monkey-feces as Pantera, it still has huge amounts of groove, electronic effects and other stupid influences.
Look at the second track for example, starting with those stupids effects and then the down-tuned guitars (SHIT! No! Please Rob, not you!!) come in playing a very groovy riff and then going start-stop Pantera-like... sorry, but this is non aggresive utter shit. The speed knob was lost during the recording of this album, as all tracks are slow and plodding.
Also the lead playing department must have gone on vacation because there is very little lead work here. And when a lead is done, it is generally too short and aimless... just like most 90's metal (just look at the "solo" in Blowout in the Radio Room...). There are some good moments, like the start of "Legacy of Hate", but then it turns into a stupid groove/electronic effects fest that completely sucks. Even Rob's voice has been modified and doesn't go into the falsetto... I can't believe it. If this wasn't enough, the drums are completely dry and shallow, not exactly the way Scott sounded in Painkiller.
Just look at the line-up, with a guy that later appeared on Marylin Manson's band, you should "get it" and be warned about the content here.
I don't like writing such short reviews, but all these tracks sound exactly the same and you can hardly tell the difference between them.
Luckily Rob realised that this sucks and returned to real metal. But as of 1995, the metal god was dethronned.
So after being a Priest fan, although not a huge fan, for awhile I decided to check out what Halford was doing after Painkiller. What a mistake that was. I was expecting something along the lines of greatness of Painkiller, what I got was generic 90's sludge. The most accurate description is somewhere between Corrosion Of Conformity and Trendkill era Pantera.
Basically everything that makes an album not good is on here. The songs all sound EXACTLY alike. I mean it's hard to tell when one song ends and another begins. This makes it very boring after about two songs. There are basically no lead guitars. This makes for a generic groove feel because, frankly the riffs are nowhere near good enough to stand on their own. 90's influence runs rampamnt here and that is not a good thing. There is a reason metal was dead in the 90's, among other things, 90's metal lost its balls. It became very uncool play fast, have good solos, play more than three riffs, or have anything about the music make the listener have an intense reaction.
Onto Halford's voice. My god man what happened? There are no falsetto screams to be found. Halford was always known for them and that's what made him awsome. He replaced them with very empty sounding cleanish vocals. And to top it off there are irritating "atmospheric" effects put on the vocals.
Everything about this album is just so boring. Nothing jumps out and grabs me. The melodies, be it vocal or guitar, are just there and do nothing interesting. The riffs are generic and not even well played. The drums are a simple as they could be, surprising given who actually plays them. The bass completely follows the rhythm guitar and isn't worth mentioning. So if you like boring as fuck 90's sludge/groove you might like this. If you liek real Heavy Ficking Metal, stay away.
Is this CD a match for the screaming thrash of "War of Words" or the poignant 1980's melodies of Judas Priest? HELL NO!
The GOOD news though is that this CD didn't even try to acheive either of these ends. It's grinding, dirty mix and snarling vocals (the demented choirgirl scream is rarely seen on this record) sound like a rusty train running off it's rails.
Halford and co. make a sociall aware record which grinds, snarls and snakes along with vigor and violence working around the theme of subtle anger which is not something one expects from Halford. (Nothing Halford does is usually subtle.)
Though fans panned this for not embracing past works - this record really is a solid blast of metal not unlike a Halford fronted Alice in Chains.
Halford really tried something new on this, and with an open mind you may find that you enjoy the heavy crank of sludge bombs such as "I Am Alive", "Small Deadly Space" and "Beneath the Violence".