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It’s probably not the least bit fair, but I tend to think of this album, Pessimist’s debut, as mainly being a forerunner to their excellent sophomore effort, Blood for the Gods, which is one of my favorite death metal albums. The overall style of their music didn’t change much between their first two efforts, but the songwriting is somewhat less consistent here and the distant, faded production leaves something to be desired.
If anything, this is probably a little more complex and technical than where they went on their second album, with a tendency towards multi-part songwriting – at times this is a definite strength, but it also causes the last half of the album to blur together somewhat for me. There’s also a comparatively greater reliance on higher-pitched “black metal” vocals, as well as some squawky high-pitched vocals (possibly performed by guest musician Tom Persons) that sound as if they’re being inhaled rather than screamed. Primary vocalist Rob Kline provides adequate low-ended rumbling but is a little monotone.
Nevertheless, this is excellent American death metal that certainly succeeds on its own merits, and the best songs on the album are among the band’s best. In particular “Drunk with the Blood of the Saints” may be my very favorite Pessimist song (and possibly a precursor to their later song “Wretched of the Earth”) – the staggering, melodic main riff is simply one of the darkest and catchiest that the band’s come up with. Although the band can always be trusted not to sacrifice evil atmosphere and songwriting for mindless brutality, it’s those more blatantly melodic parts that tend to catch my ear.
Anyhow, I recommend this album, if only for the first four songs, although personally I’d advise listeners new to Pessimist to start with Blood for the Gods.