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After three albums and several minor releases, I'd got used to Revenge's style of blast-attack-raze (as in raze to the ground) style of black metal so it's a surprise to discover on this fourth album that the guys have actually raised their game to another, higher level. The band's sound is sharper than what I remember and the songs are now long enough to admit the occasional lead guitar solo which, in line with the Revenge take-no-prisoners musical philosophy, pullulates insanely shrill bubble chords as fast as bacteria on speed. The sound actually varies from lawn-mower drone to deep gravel chow-downs. There are strange throaty guttural effects a-plenty on most tracks that sound as if Read got himself a bunch of monster zombie hounds and locked them up in the studio while the band was recording so you hear them groaning and slavering away in the background. He's got reason to defend himself with such canine critters as this album expresses his and the band's general disgust with human "sheeple" weakness.
A dramatic intro with thudding bass drum and crashing riffs, beneath which James Read's voice growls indecipherable sweet-nothings, swings into "Us and Them (High Power)" which, having claimed out attention, rips into a careening zig-zag all over the shop with shrill guitar zips and bash-bash percussion. "Retaliation (Fallout Prayer)" follows immediately after and although it appears an extension of the first track, I can sort of hear a slightly different rhythm (or maybe my mind thinks, this is a new song so it must have a different rhythm!) and there are bits that go hollow and rattling which I've never heard before on any black metal album. (Are Revenge going experimental?) "Parasite Gallows (In Line)" can't wait to get started and finish at the same time so this is another wild tear through nuclear-powered drums, the filthiest, crust-laden guitar chainsaw churn, more lead guitar frothing up like cane toad spawn and deep croaky monster vocal effects. For weird, gravelly sonic texture and creepiness, very few songs can match "Parasite Gallows ..." and this is an early highlight if not the major highlight of the album.
Hardly any time for a breather each time a song ends as Revenge are already into the next one and halfway through it and before long we're close to the last couple of tracks. The singing, if we can call it that, is more deranged and hysterical with every additional track, with more screams and "aaaarghhhs!" The musicianship is surprisingly good when you consider the guys are playing faster than fast and chaotically, and the second half of the album improves on the first with more varied beats and a wide array of effects. "Banner Degradation (Exile or Death)" manages to pack in a slow, almost sludge stomping beat with an industrial edge in among the hyper-fast rhythms and riffing. By "Pride Ruination (Division Collapse)", we're just about ready for anything from Revenge that we haven't heard before and this track turns out to have a real rhythmic groove in parts. The drumming is stuttering hard and cymbals are all but completely berserk. "Scorned Detractor (Trust No One)" sees those half-crazed zombie hounds straining at the metal bars of their cage which increasingly comes close to breaking point while Read screeches himself ragged and the Revenge train races headlong towards the inevitable cliff-top where the sleepers end and below is just vast empty space.
For sheer energy and ferocity, few bands can match Revenge and few can also match the music not just for its aggression and anger but also humour. Read and Vermin really do sound as though they're enjoying every moment bashing out this opus.
Uh, well I was expecting the album to end in fiery and chaotic self-immolation but the conclusion is abrupt and it's me who's fallen off the cliff-top and going down, down, down into empty space while the fellers above are cheering me on!