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In the 80s, you had your thrash powerhouses and you had your second- and third- division thrash bands. With the resurgence of thrash in the 2000s, the same thing is happening. Lich King would somewhere fall into the tiers below the powerhouses.
This is really a strange collection of ideas, rhythmically. It's hard to latch onto and sometimes it almost works, while other times you simply have the feeling you've heard this before done much better. You have riffs that sound very derivative of classic bay area thrash bands like Vio-lence and thrash/death-tinged Possessed, even. This is for fans who really like rhythm guitars as they have plenty of riffs to trot out. So, if you like that kind of sound, as I do, you'll find yourself banging your head on occasion. At other times, you'll border on cringing.
The production is an obvious problem, though with the song-writing hovering just above competence the whole time, i can't say it was a real factor in how I feel when listening to this. It can be very tinny and almost industrial-sounding (fake sounding) at times, especially when it comes to the cymbals. I've heard it said a bad cymbal sound can literally ruin a record by itself, and when listening to a track like Caveman Aggression, it sounds like the cymbals you would find on an electronic Roland drum kit. During the bass/cymbal interplay around 1:45 of Mascot War, this problem really stands out.
The second problem is the vocals. Remember the Coven - Boneless Christian album? There was thrash metal on that record that sounded totally full and heavy, killer riffs galore... and then the dude sang. It took a song that was headed for a 5-star triumph and popped it like a balloon. That happens in most of these songs, only make them 4-star triumphs. If Lich King are ever to be known as a national act and hit the festival circuit, it would benefit them to do something about the singing. Re: change dudes.
I simply don't feel convinced here. I feel empty listening to it, like I'm listening to a bunch of metal fans who know their shit, but they don't know how to songwrite. Ultimately, there isn't anything memorable on this album. It makes solid background noise, i'll give it that much. And I don't HATE it, I feel Lich King just gets smoked by the other bands doing this right now. And when I put this alongside a bonafide classic like Vio-lence - Eternal Nightmare, which they obviously want listeners to do, it becomes irritating, like comparing a Hallow's Eve record to Reign in Blood. If you know someone who says Hallow's Eve was where it's at, when you know it was basically third-tier, then you know someone who needs a little metal education.
Speaking of metal education, when I saw they covered Vio-lence (Bodies On Bodies) and Exodus (A Lesson In Violence) on this record, it made me give them the chance they may not have otherwise gotten out of me. It's clear they are metal FANS, but maybe aren't necessarily pros at taking those influences from countless hours of thrash listening and turning it into a great thing themselves. When a new band covers an old classic, they better do something to update it and perhaps even improve upon the original, while of course not replacing the power the original had. The talent just isn't here. This is cut-out bin thrash. Ironically, I got my first Vio-lence tape out of a cut-out bin for 88 cents in the late 80s. I turned that into a life-long fascination with Vio-lence. This album would not have received that same adulation given the same circumstance. Sean Killian is one of the all-time sick metal vocalists. The rendition of Killian's classic Vio-lence delivery presented here makes Killian sound like Dio in comparison, rather than the broken glass-spewer he is. I'm simply not convinced. The gang background vocals on Bodies reveal another missing dimension in Lich King. It sounds like I asked everyone at my last family barbecue to record themselves yelling "BODIES ON BODIES!" and threw it on an album. "Hey, Uncle Jim... say, that's a sweet I.O.U. sweatshirt... yell 'bodies on bodies' into this mic here for me, would you?" Again, not convinced. Thrash metal is nothing BUT conviction when it's done right. Baloff would call these guys posers. I won't go that far, because they clearly have a start and they're young.
Perhaps we have one of those bands simply trying to find their way and by the time album #3 rolls around (i see they're on #4 as i write this, but i'm gunshy about trying another one...we'll see), they will be the monster act they seem to desperately WANT to be. But, they aren't there on Necromantic Maelstrom. And I really hoped for that.