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Solid Modern Thrash - 76%

OlympicSharpshooter, April 5th, 2004

Hades is an extremely long-running thrash act, having formed WAAAAAY back in 1978. However, it took them nearly a decade to release their first record (which nobody, including me, ever heard). And after that record, they went their separate ways, the most notable by-product being Alan Tecchio's run with legendary prog-thrashers Watchtower.

However, even though they were never Metallica, or even Overkill, Hades was a solid unit, and when they regrouped in the late 90's they were welcomed back into the Metal Blade family, and I eventually picked this up in one of my ramblings on their store. And you know what? It's a solid little recording, featuring some excellent songs and tight performances from the whole cast of characters.

Since most of you have probably never heard anything by the band, I'll give you a bit more description of their sound than I normally would. They are rather eclectic, in most regards not terribly original, but certainly a solid latter-day speed metal unit. As mentioned earlier, vocalist Tecchio spent a fair period of time with Watchtower, and there is certainly a marked influence here and there, particularly on tracks like "The Decline and Fall of the American Empire" (complete lack of vocal melody and socio-political lyrics...CHECK!) and "Y2K" which is sorta like Slayer meets Watchtower, containing some tricky playing combined with a "Raining Blood"-style riff. It isn't quite the ungodly supra-chops of that other Tecchio group, but it's certainly a worthwhile listen.

Speaking of Tecchio, his voice has certainly changed. He rarely shreds his upper register these days, but it's not really a problem as it's mellowed and aged until it reminds me favourably of Armored Saint's John Bush. He really sells the more melodic songs on the album, such as the wonderful "To Know One" in which he is mesmerizing. It's really got a great Alice in Chains-y vibe, gloomy acoustics, and a really nice thrash-ballad riff. Nothing incredibly original, but Alan is just so perfect, so perfectly sad and worn out just like the "character" he plays. On some of the thrashers like the virulent "Y2K" and "Active Contrition" and the epic "The End of the Bargain" he conjures up a reserved Joey Belladonna-style tone, high-pitched but low-range, although he does let some really impressive screams out now and then.

Unfortunately he's not always perfect. On some songs like "In the Words of the Profit" and "SaviorSelf" he's kinda flat, just singing without much emotion. And being the lyricist, he's to blame for the lyrics. A lot of this is solid stuff, but he seems to have a real hardon for punny names: "SaviorSelf", "Active Contrition", "In the Words of the Profit"...bleh, it works sometimes but this is overkill.

And you may've noticed that I keep yammering about Tecchio?
That's because the rest of the band is rather unremarkable. In the "Decline and Fall" the band plays a simple (albeit quality) riff literally to death, with literally nothing happening. And there is a serious lack of soloing throughout, perhaps presaging the lack of solos on Killbox 13 and St. Anger. There's also a real lack of originality in the music, most songs being very comparable to the work of other bands. "End of the Bargain" is the sole epic-ish song, and it sounds like something from the serious side of the 80's Anthrax discog. And most of it is good but generic modern speed.

One caviat to that rule is the striking "Fail", a pessimistic ballad with a sardonic grin, truly like no other metal song I've ever heard. It's tender, a dead-ringer for an old folk ballad, but with the trademark Tecchio touch. It's simply wonderful, from the passionate vocals to the strangely charming "broken-music box" guitar doodle towards the end. The noodling "The Agnostic" and "The Athiest" deserve mentions as well, the former a short little unplugged instrumental, the latter a grand electric outro to the record on the whole, guitars steely in the classic thrash style.

This comes highly recommended, especially considering the low, low price at the Metal Blade shop. As I recall it's currently going for $0.99 and you really can't beat that.

Stand-Outs: "To Know One", "Fail", "Y2K"