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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.