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Ah, I remember this album well. Before I experienced this sophomore release by Florida death metal outfit Malevolent Creation, I didn't have a high opinion of death metal. My original first experience with the genre was through Cannibal Corpse, a band I didn't take much of a liking to. I couldn't really get into it, with the disgusting "throwing up my internal organs" vocal style and the B-grade slasher movie lyrics. Then came "Retribution." Initially going in with reserved expectations, this album completely changed my mind about death metal and along with "IVth Crusade," "Transcend the Rubicon," and "Pierced from Within" remains one of my favorite death metal albums of all time.
If you were to hear this band's debut in "The Ten Commandments" then experience this one, there would be little comparison. That's saying alot, considering that the previous album was quite good, but lacking considerable maturity in the songwriting. "Retribution" makes up for all that, and shows a band who has progressed quite a bit despite the fact that these two albums are only a year apart. The band has gotten more technical, more mature, and definitely more focused on their mission as a death metal band. The songs and the album as a whole is simply stellar, the kind of listening experience you don't really get anymore with the recent waves of technically impressive but emotionally lifeless tech death and deathcore bands.
The first thing to notice is the sound quality. Its simply excellent, especially for this style of metal and the era in which it was produced. The production allows the instrumentation to show itself without one certain piece of the band taking center stage. Brett Hoffman's vocals are scathing yet intelligent, never the bowel movement soundtrack that the gore bands get themselves into. His lyrics usually condemn society and corruption, a welcome change from the usual gore lyrics of intestines flying across the room and strangling you.
While there isn't a single song here that qualifies as a dud, there are a few stand-outs. "Slaughter of Innocence" comes to mind with Hoffman's ever vicious vocal attacks and the great line "die motherfucker!!!" but also allows the bass to shine here, unusual for death metal in general. That shows up again in "No Flesh Shall Be Spared," where the bass is given more room and allowed to shine. Both "Monster" and "Mindlock" are powerhouse tracks, the former is a favorite of mine allowing then drummer Alex Marquez to show off his talents and he brings a new element to the band that was somewhat missing on the debut. However, none of these nine songs are skippable which makes this a great album to hear all the way through. Its half hour duration ensures that album never gets boring or tiresome, and ends just as powerfully with "Iced" as it began with the killer "Eve of the Apocalypse."
Rest assured, if you enjoyed the pioneering sounds of the Florida death metal scene, then "Retribution" is an album not to be missed. It stands alongside more well known releases such as "Human," "Symbolic," "Altars of Madness," and "Screams of Anguish" as some of the better albums from the Florida scene of the time. Its certainly an incredible listen, even to this day, especially amongst the sea of skilled yet obviously lacking death metal outfits out there today. From the band's brutal yet well crafted assaults to the superb artwork by Dan Seagrave, this is one album no death metal fan should be without and is the best album Malevolent Creation ever created.