without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
I am always hesitant to give an album a score this high because there is always something you can find fault with, and even though there is very little here that I personally can criticize, plenty of people will find something they dislike about this album for whatever reason. So, I deducted a couple points, just because.
To me, this has always ranked as one of the greats; the pinnacle of mid-80's speed/thrash metal, executed to perfection in every way possible. By the time they released this LP, the band had been around in some form or other for nearly nine years and gone through many changes, all that time developing and perfecting their sound. They started life as a traditional metal band but evolved into a thrash band over the years, successfully transitioning to that sound without sounding a bit forced or cheezy. (A certain Texas band made a similar transition less successfully, yet were less successful at resisting success- wrap your heads around THAT one, Hades fans, ha ha!)
Basically almost everything about this album is perfect. The production brings out the blistering guitar sound and thrashy energy, the playing is spot on, top notch, with great musicianship, and the songs are almost uniquely excellent, without one single filler track. Production-wise, there are no unbalanced instruments or flaws with the mix at all. While the riffs and the playing is often very technical, they never sacrifice songcraft or catchiness merely for the sake of playing technical riffs, which was a common trap that many a "technical thrash band" would fall into as the decade progressed. ALL of these songs are catchy and flow nicely from beginning to end, even the somewhat long "Masque of the Red Death" (which I subtracted a point for being a bit too long, even though it never really gets tiresome) I will also mention the vocals; Tecchio's high register vocals are not my favorate style of singing BUT: To his credit, he pulls it off perfectly. He hits every single high note spot on, without wavering or sounding itchy, and his voice retains the power it needs to and suits the music well.
What I like about this record is it's diversity. Every song is distinct, and stylistically different, without ever sounding contrived- they all just fit together. You have your blistering, balls out thrashers like opening track "The Leaders" and "Legal Tender." There are galloping midpaced riff monsters like "On to Illiad", "Night Stalker" and the aforementioned "...Red Death" and your slow, doom-ish traditional metal track "Sweet Revenge" which, although a slower track, still has an instantly memorable and very monstrously good riff throughout- it rocks, trust me. Even the ballad "The Cross" is a great song, holding a lot of power and atmosphere. This song compares favorably to the best of the Christian-themed "white doom metal" bands. I admit some may not quite buy into the pro-Jesus leanings of the lyrics; I wont criticize anyone else's beliefs here nor will I editorialize about it further- but rest assured Hades never intended to be a "Christian" band a la Stryper. And "The Cross" is a much better song, more powerful and effective than anything Stryper ever wrote.
Really, the whole thing just smokes, from beginning to end, showing that they can thrash with the best of em- and outdo just about anyone with their more traditional metal songs as well. It's just a combination of great riffs, great energy, and technical playing which lifs this album above most of their contemporaries, and it really is a shame that it's title became a self-fulfilling prophecy.