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A rather odd duck of a release here- the concluding three bands all seem to operate within the same general scene and have associations with each other, but The Dead have no real connections to the other three; I think they were brought in to round out the release a bit. What we have is a collection of four fairly oldschool death and thrash bands all infatuated with silly party thrash tropes and b-horror- exactly the sort of thing I would typically despise, but all these bands have enough underground credibility for me to appreciate it a little more. It still rarely gets a spin.
Oddly enough, The Dead is a side project from the two primary members of Ceremonial Castings. The implication is obvious; this side project is more of a lark than a serious attempt, and while the music is legitimately composed, it's clearly not taking the place of Ceremonial Castings anytime soon. The Dead's music is a rather melodic, atmospheric take on death metal, reminding me most closely of Zombie Death Stench, another odd duck band that plays symphonic black/death with an infatuation for the undead. More surprisingly is the fact that Ceremonial Castings bleeds through quite a bit from time to time, with the slow, grandiose close of 'Sledgehammer Autopsy' or in the melodic tremolo riffs which dot the band's six tracks.
The Dead's music is surprisingly well composed, with an array of solid, thrashy riffs forming the bulk of the music, and while the guitar tone leaves something to be desired (too glassy and digital for my taste), what's being played more than makes up for it. The only real problem with this music is its latent goofiness; the dumb King Diamond imitation falsetto vocals that pop up are obnoxious and some of the cloying b-movie synths just give me the impression the band didn't know what to do so they hung a lampshade on the band's aesthetic to make up for it. The Dead is good enough to play without silliness and gimmicks; I'm hoping to hear new material from them which shows this fully.
Reeker plays oldschool death/thrash with a modern boner thrash overtone. The result: basically Ghoul, I guess. Riffs are all derived from oldschool death or thrash metal (Bay Area, usually), and the vocals are the sort of 'Heartwork' snarl you've come to expect from this style. While the music is serviceably composed for the most part, the style itself has never done anything for me; I do like it that Reeker seems to go a bit harder than other bands of a similar style, mostly focused around racing double bass sections or other, more brutal moments, but the overall presentation is too similar to bands like Ghoul or Zombie Ritual for my comfort.
There's nothing overtly wrong with Reeker's music, it's just sort of boring on this side of the split. If you like silly boner thrash (yes, that's my term for it) you'll probably enjoy it, but for someone who likes his death metal slamming and his thrash... Germaning, this doesn't offer a whole lot.
I own the 'Sorcorers Of Shred' demo released immediately after this split, and Raw Sewage's side follows a similar formula: extremely fast, crossover-inspired speed/thrash which periodically breaks into death/grind, complete with blast beats and gurgles. The members of Raw Sewage come from the punk scene more than the metal scene, and it shows in the music, which is packed with gang vocals, d-beats, and buzzing thrash riffs that would make sense anywhere in the D.R.I. catalog. While the music is definitely silly and completely unserious, the presentation is solid and the songs have enough energy and variation to them that they don't really get old.
Raw Sewage makes compact tracks rarely more than a minute and a half long, which suits the style; any more of it and I'd probably get bored or just tired of the energy, but brevity is one of the best qualities of this band. They're in, out, and on their way quickly, without feeling the need to linger around the listener like a bad smell. Raw Sewage has basically one trick up their sleeve and they know it, but damn it's a good trick sometimes.
This is Meathole Infection's final release before the style shift signaled by the 'Earth Invasion' EP, where they turned into a slow, morbid, doomy death metal band right out of the Autopsy scheme of things. Back in this era, though, Meathole Infection played a pretty uptempo variety of Impetigo-influenced death metal with hints of thrash and punk, complete with digital production, a drum machine, and an emphasis on songs about evil blob monsters more than being buried alive. This side is solid, but I've always thought the band's style shift was a smart idea, and frankly this just doesn't compare to later releases like the 'Bloodsucker' demo.
This is definitely an improvement from their original self-titled demo, but still shows the band in a transitional phase; bits of 'Earth Invasion' show up on tracks like 'Rank Franks' with its undeniably morbid opening tremolo riff, but overall this is a bit too spirited and fun for my taste. The songwriting is adequate and paced pretty well, but still, I'd recommend something from later in their catalog before this.
Boner thrash is still silly and dumb, b-horror is old, and the metal scene will never be rid of 4-way splits like these. Pick it up if you like silly modern thrash, but ultimately the bands on this release are too scattered to appeal to anyone in particular; you'll end up thinking at least one side sucks no matter what. Still, it's a quirky little item that points to an odd place in metal's history, so think about getting it for that reason and then decline to.
So this is it? This is retro thrash? People are calling 'Unspoken King' and 'Genesis' abominations, and praising this? Sure, this is the real stuff.
This isn't a defense of either of the aforementioned albums, I don't own any of them so I can cast no real opinion, but the fact that people are hating those albums and being all excited about this sort of thing either means that those two albums are really, REALLY bad or that the current metal scene is completely retarded. I have my own presumptions as to which one it is.
Now, it's not like this is a terrible split, and afterall, there are some cool moments, but the whole idea, spirit, feel, atmosphere, concept...you know what I'm talking about. The whole aesthetic that is being expressed through the music is so utterly fucking stupid that I can't get my head round why it's seen as being so cool at all. This album was made for exactly four people, and unless your name is Beavis, Butthead, Wayne or Garth then it isn't you. Ok, perhaps if you're eating nachos (or pizza), drinking root beer, playing a tv-boy game about surfing and listening to Xentrix's cover of the the Ghostbusters theme over and over (wishing only that it was faster with a more juvenile vocalist) then you may find something worthwhile in this. Although you're probably not that person as you must have the ability to read to reach this far.
I'll review this piece-by-piece...
The Deadnot serious enough for their own good... 60%
The part that sucks most about The Dead is that they actually have some really gripping moments, and the band manage to write some really convincing melodies and construct the songs well. The first, second and sixth songs, if played by another band, could make some really great songs, almost emotional sounding, very haunting and eerie. As you noticed I didn't list their names, because it sucks all of the seriousness out of the otherwise cool music. Oh heck, I'll do it just for you. 'Necro Zombie Flesh Feast', 'Sledgehammer Autopsy', 'Buried in the Playground'. See what I mean? The worst part is that they purposely make the lyrics understandable, which just dumbs the whole sound down terribly. I'm certain that it was meant to sound dumb to a degree, but that's a damn shame as if this band were serious about what they were doing they could craft some really great music.
Case in point, 'Necro Zombie Flesh Feast' has a very, very annoying shrill 'classic metal' vocalist sing one line. The melody itself is actually really great, very cool. Sure, the vocalist is bad, and I can't tell if he was aiming for King Diamond or Painkiller-era Halford, but nonetheless that melody that pops up a few times is really cool. But do you know what ruins it other than the poor vocalist? The fact that the (clear) lyrics are 'human meat is what we crave!' Eugh, that just ruins it entirely for me, and the band sounds best when you can't tell what they're saying at all. 'Sledgehammer Autopsy' has a really cool string of notes that it opens up with that crops up again later a few times, and if the band had pushed themselves to focus on that sort of thing a bit more then I'd appreciate it much more. Seriously, this band has massive, massive potential, but keeping their heads stuck in that stupid surfs up death-thrash ninja turtle living dead ethos stops it from going anywhere. Still, they're probably the best band on here, and I'll give them the benefit of the doubt as they are clearly good writers. They're just not serious enough for their own good.
Reeker Nothing of any worth here 35%
Ok, the band can play their instruments reasonably well and can string a number of notes together to form riffs. They have two vocalists that know how to make harsh vocals and they know how to record music. That's all I can positively say about this band. The material here is really bland, with lots of weak thrash riffs interspersed with some semi-death metal groovy ones, alternating growls (high and low) and punk/thrash vocals with really meaningless, repetitive choruses ('Drink! Thrash! Kill!') and song titles like 'Johnny Girlpants Must Die'. There's not much more to say, and the sad thing is that there's a massive audience for this sort of thing. On we go...
Raw Sewage Generic and, at times, annoying 35%
Raw Sewage alternate between punk-thrash ala Suicidal Tendencies, grindish sounding fast parts with gurgly vocals and death metal sections, usually multiple times per songs. Their music has a bit more energy than Reeker but they're still not very good, the thrash/punk choruses are totally unmemorable and the gurgled vocals sound ridiculous (in 'Turboshred' and 'Slave to the Grave' they just say "yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah"). The riffs also sound recycled and there's very little of interest here. The fast moving parts are okay in a very generic way, but there's just too little content here to care about at all.
Meathole Infection Odd ducks 60%
I have no idea what Meathole Infection are doing on this split, but they don't belong at all. They're a pretty cool old-school death metal band and even though this material isn't nearly as good as the 'Bloodsucker' demo they play some decent death metal with cool vocals and keep things pretty consistant. They don't reach the highs of 'The Dead' but they don't sink as low as that band either, so I'd say they share the top spot. But as I said, they got a lot better after this, much darker and doomier with a better production job, the absurd vocals becoming even more absurd and fucked up on 'Bloodsucker' (unless the listing here us wrong, in which case they've stepped things down on this demo). The thrashy riffs are unnecessary though, and the band should stick to the morbid death metal that they're good at.
I still think that zombie thrash sucks (that's now the official term for all of this 'retro thrash' nonsense - leaving good bands like Evile and Fueled By Fire out of it of course). It's dumb, it's open about how dumb it is and I can't imagine why anyone would want to listen to it. It represents the worst elements old-school thrash metal and makes them ten times worse, and for whatever stupid reason this whole thing completely overrides GOOD, intense modern thrash bands that are genuinely pushing the style forwards.
I salute Bestial Desecration and I piss on this sort of thing. Recommended to Californian skaterbois that use phrases like 'radical, dude!' (in a really forced, unnatural manner) and pretend to have large B-movie collections. Not recommended to anyone else.
This split is the epitome of fun. This whole 4-way split shreds like nothing I've heard before. I think each bands sense of humor adds a very special element to the music that not a lot of bands have. We've established they are fun and exciting, but are they musically talented? The answer is..fuck yes!
We'll start off by covering the REEKER side of the split. I can sum this side up in three statements: Kill posers, eat nachos, and drink beer! If you're looking for strong riffs, Reeker has them. The riffs are relentlessly heavy, and entertaining! They have a very heavy tone, and feature thrash speed for the most part. This band is strong at writing material. I can't say theres many guitar solos, but that is of no importance. The bass guitar is audible, and just adds on to the heaviness of the music. The drummer is very able, and does his job superbly. The vocals contain death grunts, higher pitched growls, and what sounds to me like some mildly pitch-shifted gurgles every now and then. This side is superb, go listen to REEKER!
Next, we move on to Raw Sewage. What a name, comes of very old school sounding! The name fits their style. To some extent, Raw Sewage reminds me of Municipal Waste, but heavier. The riffs move at a fast pace, giving a nice thrash sound. The riffs keep a constant speed through their side for the most part. Again, no guitar solos to be heard. The bass follows the guitar, and fits into the mix well. Both the bass and the drums fit the mix well, but there isn't any stand-out moments for them. That's fine for the drummer, all he has to do is keep the beat, which he does well. The vocalist reminds me of the singer Municipal Waste, but his voice is a bit deeper. There's also some death growl style vocals used. The Raw Sewage side is also enjoyable. Sadly, this band is no more. At least they went out with a bang.
Next on this big split, we have The Dead. The Dead is a side project to Ceremonial Castings, which I find interesting. You can hear the similarities in the guitar playing and the vocals. This band is more blackened punk influenced than any of the bands on this split. Their sound is still fast, yet it comes with some tremolo style picking here and there. There are indeed a few guitar solos. The bass is more inaudible in this band, which is sad to say. The same drummer from Ceremonial Castings drums for The Dead, so you know what to expect: Fast, blasting, and little variation. The vocal style are mid-pitched growls, death grunts/gurgles, and high pitched screaming. The Dead comes off as sounding raw, they are unlike Reeker, Raw Sewage, and Meathole Infection.
Lastly on this review we have Meathole Infection. This band is pure Impetigo worship, which makes them stand out the most on this primarily death/thrash split. Aside from having a rather silly name, the music is very pleasing. The guitar is very raw and thin, but enjoyable. The riffs are very simplistic, but they manage to keep your attention. I'm glad Meathole Infection doesn't write 6 minute songs or I'd be bored to death. The drums are obviously programmed, but done well. No inhuman speeds here. The vocals are deep grunts, and really don't change from there. They fit the music amazingly though. If you like Impetigo, go listen to Meathole Infection!
Before hearing this split, I hadn't heard many bands (besides GWAR) who could be so silly at times, but manage to write good music. This split is full of that, really. I'm glad I decided to put my money into this 4-way split. Quite frankly, it's one of the best splites I've heard. I hope to hear more out of all of these bands! Go buy this, you wont be disappointed! It might even make the listening experience more enjoyable if you eat some nachos and drink some beer.