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A bold claim reinforced by thrashing sludge - 84%

JamesIII, February 18th, 2010

If there is one hybrid of heavy metal I would have never guessed would work well together it would be thrash and sludge. Both are quite different from one another, as I never equated Kreator and Slayer with Crowbar or The Melvins. Yet these preconcieved boundaries are broken by Lair of the Minotaur, I band I honestly didn't expect a whole lot out of. Upon listening to their 2006 proper full-length, "The Ultimate Destroyer," I must say I'm quite impressed.

Any band who dedicates their album to "Metal," calls it "The Ultimate Destroyer," a bears song titles like "Juggernaut of Metal" and "Lord of Butchery" makes a very serious claim, one that should not be taken lightly. Luckily, Lair of the Minotaur do not take this lightly, and reinforce their claim with some interesting music, not the least of which can be compared to Crowbar meets Slayer played to various Greek mythological figures. While that in itself might raise a red flag, alongside some song titles like "The Hydra Coils Upon this Wicked Mountain," "The Ultimate Destroyer" delivers on a respectable level at every turn.

The music here takes several nods in various directions, some prominent mentions might be Slayer, Crowbar, and Celtic Frost. The result is a sludge laden mixure of thrashier elements and more traditionalized doom, a variety of which I'm more than happy with. The barreling tear-ass tracks like "Behead the Gorgon" or "Juggernaut of Metal" set forth a barrage that I haven't heard out of a modern thrash band in some time. I wouldn't really call Lair of the Minotaur a proper thrash band, as there are plenty of styles and influences that move away from pure thrash territory. However, they still manage to pack their songs full of thrashier influences, and also manage to stick out better than most newcomers on the American thrash scene.

My favorite parts to this album had to be those rooted in more traditional doom. Its still sludgy as hell, as one could expect from my mentions of Crowbar and The Melvins. Songs like these include "Cannibal Massacre" and of course the seven minute closer in "The Hydra Coils Upon this Wicked Mountain." These two songs were two of my favorites, and are likely to please most fans of older stylized doom metal.

While I do praise Lair of the Minotaur for some unique and truly interesting ideas, the sludge-infested brand of thrash this band plays isn't very satisfying to someone looking for good thrash metal. Its still hard-hitting and relentless, but the sludgy guitar tone makes recalling many of the riffs difficult, which makes recalling some of these songs difficult. Of course some are better than others but after hearing the album a few times, I was still gathering my bearings on memorability. Other than this complaint, and perhaps that the vocals are a little low in the mix, I don't have much of anything negative to say about this album.

For the bold claims made with the album title and of course, the dedication to metal as a whole, Lair of the Minotaur largely succeed. Their take on heavy metal is still good on most levels, and this album is a definite step-up in refinement of style compared to "Carnage." With all the bands out there who continue to disappoint or were never that interesting to begin with, "The Ultimate Destroyer" stands high above them all, and wages mythological war against these lesser beings with relentless fury.

Crushing! - 100%

Sargon_The_Terrible, November 28th, 2007

Holy fuck. Never heard of this band before, despite that they are from Chicago, home of fellow killers like Forest Of Impaled and the mighty Usurper. Lair Of The Minotaur are more than worthy to join the most hallowed ranks of the heavy. Their debut Carnage was a delightful slice of old-school killing, but The Ultimate Destroyer flattens it – along with just about everything else. Normally, when a reviewer says "heaviest thing I've ever heard" it's just hyperbole, but probably not this time.

People have a hard time categorizing this band, as they don't follow any of the current trends. What LotM are all about is Celtic Frost – the good, old kill-you-with-my-riff Celtic Frost. To Mega-Therion Celtic Frost. Am I committing blasphemy by saying I think this album is every bit as good as that one? Well it is. Lair Of The Minotaur start with a bludgeoning riff attack, throw in Usurper-style bellowing vocals, and wrap it up in a guitar sound so thick it's got fur on it. The album title isn't really a name so much as a labeling of contents – turn it up and this fucking thing will crack your windows. HEAVY is the order of the day here, along with punishing riffs and lyrical themes about Greek myth reimagined as a horror movie filled with splattered blood, decapitations, and venom-drooling monsters. It is not possible to describe in words how much this kills. If you know their first album let me say that this wastes it all over the place, awesome as that album was. And if you don't know dick about this band just imagine the album Celtic Frost should have made instead of Cold Lake – and then go buy this fucking horned killing machine.

Originally written for www.metalcrypt.com

Faith in heavy metal and it's fans = dying fast - 1%

BloodIronBeer, November 27th, 2007

There are three reasons I generally choose to write a review for a particular album.

1. It's outstanding in quality, and no one seems to notice.

2. It's horrendous, and no one seems to notice.

3. It's an outside-the-box, totally different album, and no one seems to notice.

4. Because I damn well feel like it.

This album falls into category number 2. Obviously, I accept the simple fact that people have a difference in opinion. Simple enough. But when something is this astoundingly idiotic and receives praise, a bit of my faith in this music dies an agonizing death.

My first question to anyone who thinks this is more destructive than a wrecking ball to the groin would be - have you ever heard of Swedish death metal?

I don't know how you could give anyone an ounce of credit for a ridiculously distorted guitar sound. I think anyone that could pass a third grade math test could hook nine distortion pedals in series and crank the "overdrive" knob up all the way. I'm not impressed.

To me heaviness is more in aggression and passion, or riffs that just exude attitude (both of which this band is completely exhausted on). I'm pretty sure that's why metalcore and nu-metal bands tune down to C and B. And if that's heaviness - then I've heard heavier nu-metal.

But what the band may have in grittiness of tone, they lack in aggression and spirit. It's not slow or sorrowful enough to be called doom. The riffs don't have the attack and picking of death metal. It's certainly doesn't resembles anything thrash. It's just uneventful "heavy" music.

The vocalist I believe is going for an 80's Tampa style but comes off sounding more like your friendly neighborhood floor-punching hardcore kid. Easily some of the saddest vocals I've heard in recent history. The level of musicianship and song writing is abysmal. The riffs are lowbrow, and the structures are verse-chorus-verse throughout. The drums maintain a lumbering pace. The riffs never stray into anything interesting in melody, harmony, rhythm or tone. Nor do they vary a great deal. Every facet of this music is marked by the obvious absence of creativity, passion or skill - these guys are absolutely devoid of talent.

As I realize that there are people who cannot see that this is the absolute nadir of musical talent (or creativity, integrity and passion) I question what I am doing writing reviews for metal in the first place. I know metal is where my heart is, no question about it. Though it’s moments like these I wish I could change that. I wonder if maybe my time wouldn’t be better spent in the pursuit of the classical arts and the violin on the other side of the room.

*sigh*

Magnificent thrashing sludge. - 92%

sawneybeene, December 9th, 2006

I'm torn on sludge metal. On the one hand, sludge bands generally have a terrific guitar sound and thick production that, when combined well, leads to an experience akin to being buried in, well, sludge. On the other hand, the genre as a whole seems dependent on unbearably slow, long songs. This has lead me to wishing a band would take the sound of Eyehategod, Crowbar, et al, and speed it up. Enter Lair of the Minotaur.

These Chicagoans take a sludge metal base, but instead of relying on long, droning songs that are seemingly dependent on being high to be enjoyable, they speed things up to near thrash speeds on virtually all the songs on here. That's not to say there's no slow, doomy moments - closer "The Hydra Coils Upon This Wicked Mountain", is a slow, lumbering number, that while going on a bit long at seven minutes, is still a decent song thanks to some inventive riffing and a great performance from vocalist Steven Rathbone. His performance throughout this release is very good - mixing a nice Tom Warrior like voice with some shrieking vocals.

The rest of the songs on "The Ultimate Destroyer" are generally up tempo and fairly simple - think Celtic Frost crossed with Eyehategod and you'll get a a general idea of what the band sounds like. Rathbone's guitar tone is absolutely vicious - a thick, meaty sound that is perfect for the music at hand. The production overall is great - the drums are a little buried and the bass might as well be nonexistent, but the guitar sound loud and strong, and the vocals are clear. The actual music sounds incredibly heavy - as mentioned, it sounds like a thrashing version of the New Orleans sludge bands. There's also a definite '80s metal influence on here, most notably Celtic Frost and Bathory.

As for highlights, virtually every song is one. "Juggernaut of Metal" opens things with a blast, being the fastest song on the album, with a great main riff and some well placed slower moments throughout. The rest of the songs on the album basically repeat the same formula, opening with a speedy main riff, then slowing down before repeating the opening riff once more, generally at a higher speed than before. It's a pretty simple formula, but it works. That's not to say all the songs sound the same - the tempos are varied enough, the riffs different enough for each song to stand out on it's own. The standouts for me are "Grisly Hound of the Pit", which features my favorite riff of the album, "Cannibal Massacre" rips by at high speed, feeling much shorter than the five minutes it is, and "Lord of Butchery", which utilizes feedback and noise to make good use of its' sub-minute running time.

What I'm trying to say in all these words, is that this is probably the best metal album of 2006. An unrelenting, vicious classic of sludgy metal that every metalhead worth his salt should hear at least once.

Heaviness Upon You - 91%

Erin_Fox, September 28th, 2006

Lair Of The Minotaur can unquestionably kick out the raw, thrashy sounds without sounding behind the times or rehashed as they prove once again on their latest Southern Lord record, ”The Ultimate Destroyer”. What makes this album most conspicuous is the mammoth, buzzing, high-gain tone of Steven Rathbone’s ultra-heavy guitars. The intense riffage roars through the speakers during “Juggernaut Of Metal”, a deafening cut that sports an atmosphere of ominous finality. Rathbone’s overtly gruff vocals during “Behead The Gorgon” will certainly thin the weak-willed from the herd, only those that are up for maximum carnage will survive this type of gristly barrage.

With both Rathbone and bassist Donald Barraca having done time in 7000 Dying Rats and drummer Larry Herweg having supplied the thunder for Tusk as well as Pelican, there’s more than enough metal know-how in this group to go around. ”The Ultimate Destroyer” is so full of mosh-tempting, headbanging licks you’ll swear that Lair Of The Minotaur had stolen Kerry King from Slayer.

Pounding, ragged-edged axework cuts like razor wire during the album’s frantic, up-tempo title track. As Barraca and Herweg throw down a chunky, throbbing groove, Rathbone lets loose with a full clip of utter vocal abomination. Lair Of The Minotaur bash away at a chopping rhythm during “Grisly Hound Of The Pit” that will no doubt be responsible for a mass of broken limbs and hospital bills when the boys break this one out in a live situation. Be forewarned — this cut is one monstrously heavy mutha.

Travis Ryan of Cattle Decapitation joins the fracas for “Cannibal Massacre” as LOTM moves between the stream-of-consciousness doom, nasty death metal grinding and a ten-foot-thick chorus geared to patently slay. Keeping the focus on sheer heaviness with a distinct absence of melodic noodling, “The Hydra Coils Upon This Wicked Mountain” brings an avalanche of slow-tempoed, pissed-off, spine-cracking trouble upon the by now, beaten and bruised listener.

If you can appreciate a stout can of heavy metal whoop-ass, Lair Of The Minotaur is capable of get the job done better than an ass-kicking machine. From start to finish, ”The Ultimate Destroyer” has everything it takes to make your ears bleed, your neck sore and your soul utterly broken, yet begging for more.