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Sideshow detractions - 60%

autothrall, October 3rd, 2013

The 'deformed' and the 'defective' have always had a safe harbor in the horror genre, playing to the superficiality and commonality of the viewer. So, naturally, this was fertile terrain for Rigor Mortis to continue their tour of transforming classic/cult horror concepts into intense onslaughts of hyper thrashing proto-death metal. I admit to having some trepidation that the band might abandon Mike Scaccia's noteworthy tremolo picking style and prowess for a chunkier, more accessible brand of mosh-thrash of the Anthrax variety, but thankfully this was a pretty direct descendant of the eponymous 1988 effort in terms of style and songwriting. I felt next to no disappointment at this fact, but I have to say I'm not of the general consensus on the Freaks EP: its loyalty to the patented Rigor Mortis sound is noted, but for whatever reason the songs here simply do not phase me like most of their predecessors.

Hell, Rigor Mortis was arguably one of the better 'second tier' US thrash records to hail from anywhere other than the East and West coasts, due largely to the guitars and vocals, and I'd even go so far as to say it had a profound if subtle influence on future decades of extreme metal. Many death and black metallers I've encountered have never even heard the thing, but there were not a lot of speed or thrash acts at the time playing with the acrobatic picking technique quite like Scaccia. In fact, I'd say he was so far ahead of his time that most extreme metal groups today don't even compose their tremolo lines with such fervor...he can twist them into a groove, bolster them into a lead sequence and could truly explore the concept of 'speed' itself. I guess without the blasting and constant double bass patterns so critical in the evolution of death and black mediums, Rigor Mortis might be taken slightly for granted while Gene Hoglan and Dave Lombardo are forever lauded, but surely Harden Harrison is a wild bastard playing on the more aggressive end of the thrash spectrum with loads of near-blast beats, constant fills and even having some fun with a cowbell, appropriate to the track "Cattle Mutilation".

The vocal position here had shifted from Bruce Corbitt to a guy named Doyle Bright, and while he doesn't have that same darkness to his bark, he does a pretty vicious impressive mix of Corbitt and other thrash frenzies like Ron Rinehart of Dark Angel. Casey Orr's bass lines here are perhaps the only department in which I actually consider Freaks a step-up from the debut. Sure, the guy's not going to receive the same level of attention as Scaccia, but he is literally fucking flying along those notes, and the relative thinness of the rhythm guitar in the mix ensures his constant presence and mildly muddled tone. Rigor Mortis is at its core about velocity; endless momentum, and this EP is no exception. It's produced cleanly and efficiently, with the vocals barking the loudest, and leads also blaring, but the rhythm instruments each playing off one another seamlessly. This is drag-strip horror metal, with exponentially more tremolo patterns than chords, and even at its slower points like "The Haunted" its still bustling along with great confidence and exploding squeals of guitar notes that dazzled just about every guitarist in the 80s that heard them, yours truly included.

Unfortunately, at least for me, the songs here simply do not have the resonance that gems like "Wizard of Gore", "Bodily Dismemberment" and "Condemned to Hell" from the debut had. I bought this when it was released and quickly forgot about it, perhaps because there was just so much better coming out at the time. In the intervening years I've gone back to it several times, but to the same underwhelming reaction. I find it nearly impossible to remember any of the riffs and notes, because honestly they're a little dull by comparison to their forebears. It's 'high speed boredom', to be sure, but pretty much victim to the same reasons a lot of death and black metal records won't gel with me decades later: lack of inspired, original, and evil patterns of notation that glue themselves to the memory and never un-stick. Tunes like "Freaks" and "Cattle Mutilation" might be perfect for fans of premature ejaculation, who just want something fast and mean and to get the whole experience over with, but there are never any interesting twists or licks waiting in the depths, apart from surface recognition of the members' dexterity. I never feel like the 'knife is in my hand' as I did with "Bodily Dismemberment". I don't feel like a psycho anymore when I hear this. It all comes down to that.

Hell, there's actually nothing 'freaky' about any of this if you've already heard the debut album. The songs here just seem like outtakes that weren't catchy enough to include among their betters. Rhythmically there aren't many interesting progressions, and hell even the "Six Feet Under" instrumental seems like a warm up exercise for the musicians with a little too much repetition. The lyrics are alright, and Bright's presence can hardly be held responsible for the lack of compelling songs (at least on this release), but I felt like Mike's note choices here felt a little dry; and thus I didn't hold out much hope for the inevitable sophomore Rigor Mortis vs. The Earth, which in addition to the lamentable songwriting, likely suffered from the 'thrash fatigue' of the early 90s and the fact that the band had been kicked to their third label home in three releases. Freaks is certainly superior to that, but it's just not that exciting beyond its visceral construction. Yeah, it's faster and arguably 'sicker' than Haunting the Chapel or The Eyes of Horror short-players, but there are single songs on those ("Chemical Warfare", "Confessions", etc) that stand out more than all 5.5 of these cuts combine. So, back on the shelf it goes, not nearly the curiosity that Mark Ryden's cover image suggests.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

A classic EP from a very innovative band. - 95%

ozzeh, March 9th, 2007

Rigor Mortis helped to pioneer the death and thrash metal scenes respectively. Their first album was a classic and "Freaks" only refines that sound. The production on "Freaks" is excellent, every instrument can be heard perfectly. The vocals are also captured brilliantly in the mix. The guitar playing of Mike Scaccia here would probably be damn near impossible to ever recreate.

As with all of Rigor Mortis's lyrics, the lyrics on "Freaks" are very off the wall. While their first album was obsessed with comic book themes and visualizations of gore, "Freaks" has a bit more diversity in the lyrics. As a whole, I feel that the lyrics are about alienation and feeling like an outcast in a society you simply can't fit in with. Simply put, the lyrics are excellent on the whole EP. They do revisit their gore theme in the song "Cattle Mutilation" though.

I really can't say anything bad about the drumming, Rigor Mortis have always had a solid drummer. Harden Harrison always does an awesome job keeping up with Scaccia's insane lead work. The bass is audible, and with the drums they form a solid backbone for Scaccia to twist the scales of musical expectations at will.

"The Haunted" has absolutely incredible guitar leads throughout the whole song and the chorus is especially memorable as well. The drumming on this song is also great. All of the songs flow in succession to form a very disturbing concept album from hell of sorts.

"Six Feet Under / Worms of the Earth" is probably my favorite Rigor Mortis song ever. It is one ten minute song with two parts, the second of which is an incredible instrumental. The first half of the song starts off with absolutely brilliant guitar wizardry. So after 3:30 the vocals begin to come into play. Scaccia never lets up for one second on this fucking song. The chorus "Worms of the EARTH!" is awesome. The guitar playing on this EP cannot be commended enough. The musicianship this band exhibits on this album never gets old to me and it's always excellent to listen to "Freaks" from start to finish. The last stanza of this song is my favorite as Scaccia changes the lead work up considerably from the riffs of the previous stanzas and it just sounds really fitting with the vocals. At 7:30, some of the best guitar playing I have ever heard in my life comes in to finish the song off.

"Chained in the Attic" finishes the album off. This song revisits the theme of the first song "Freaks" and is probably the fastest song on the this album. "Chained in the Attic" is the climax of the album and at this point, the narrative voice has gone from questioning to society to just being fucking pissed off and about to burst at the seams. A very good song to end a classic death/thrash EP.

Violent midget tossing, deformity and dead bovines - 96%

Napero, August 27th, 2005

I paid something like 50 bucks for this EP on EBay. Call me stupid if you wish, but I'll call you a loser for not owning one of the best thrash metal EPs ever. Call me a fanboy for giving it the kind of rating I did despite vowing to reserve the high scale for masterpieces, and I'll tell you that yes, I am a fanboy, please clean your ears thoroughly with Spiritus Fortis and an electric drill, and face the music. This is brilliance, splattered on the walls, reeking of gore, and ready to chop your grandma to pieces and feed her to the undead two blocks down the street. And all this in a fun-loving, unreserved manner of classic thrash.

The recent re-release of the self-titled album by Rigor Mortis has turned Freaks into a collectible rarity. The last album, Vs the Earth, has been widely distributed, and it still is readily available on EBay and even in used record stores, at least here in Finland. The S/T, as a CD version, used to be rare until the re-release, but now you can get one for less than twenty dollars, and it will probably even have the nice extra tracks on it. But Freaks remains a rarity, and CD copies are regularly being sold for something in between 40 and 75 US$ on the EBay. If I may voice my opinion, it is worth it, until the band members run out of beer and decide to re-release this one, too. I predict that this will happen before the year 2007. There's no need for that, since I already have my own copy, and I really don't care about the rest of you, so I hope my prophecy fails. It's new material we need, not re-releases.

The EP is a 26-minute display of pure brilliance, much in the same way as the self-titled is. Once again, the essence of the brilliance comes mostly from a single source: Scaccia's guitar. The man is unbelievable in his speed, and the unique style is instantly recognizable. I've never heard anyone playing anything even remotely resembling this, and just like on the S/T, the song structures seem to be made specifically for him. Luckily, the sole design parameter results in fast, aggressive and extremely listenable thrash with constant riffing excellence. Any reunion of the band is impossible without Scaccia, and therefore we all should join in a silent prayer of whatever each one of us believes is the most effective deity, and wish for a sudden break-up of Ministry.

Bruce Corbitt was my favourite vocalist in the late 80's. He was kicked out of the band, and on Freaks the new singer Doyle Bright does the vocals. Somehow, I get the feeling that Bright was a result of some serious searching. If I may draw a parallel to a notable non-Archive band, AC/DC, it's surprising how close to the original singer's tone scale the replacement comes. Bright shouts in roughly the same register as Corbitt did, and uses the same "angry man" shouting approach to deliver the anger and violence in the songs. Yup, this guy was not a man found on the street, but the result of a deliberate search for a guy to replace a vocal talent the band knew they needed. The style was and still is such a rarity that I believe accidentally finding a vocalist with such resemblance with the previous guy could not have been possible. Keeping Corbitt would have been even better, but Bright is almost as good.

The production has improved from the self-titled. The sound is maybe a bit thinner, having lost some of the cluttered love-handles of bad production, but the disturbing clicking and clanging has almost disappeared from the cymbals, the bass is audible, and the whole sound is a lot sharper and tighter. The greatest and most pleasant surprise is the bass. It used to be inaudible, and went back to the background on the Vs the Earth, but on Freaks it can for once be heard well enough for one to appreciate it. Especially on the song The Haunted the bass does some very nice things, and Mr. Orr can't be blamed for lack of skill. He may be a punk rocker nowadays, but he sure can play, in the studio at least.

While every track on the EP is a masterpiece of sorts, the Six Feet Under/Worms of the Earth combo is the definition of good gory thrash. The first part is an instrumental, the second a story about being eaten alive by worms after being buried alive. Wonderful. Don't fall asleep under the living room table with a mouthful of spaghetti while listening to this.

There's also an explanation of a kind on the album cover, in the special thanks section. On the re-released S/T, there's the extra live track Spivey, a very comical thrash number. On the Freaks cover, they give special thanks to someone called David Spivey. Maybe he is the guy who should have a urine test despite working for Rigor Mortis? Sounds like... erm, a very special guy.

Why not rate this as high as the self-titled? Well, this should have been a full-length. The band lost the spark on Vs the Earth, and it's a pity they didn't go all the way when the pyre was still roaring. Otherwise, I am completely satisfied. This is good!

Sentimental Death Metal Memories - 95%

ddwookie, July 17th, 2005

This one has a lot of sentimental value for me as it was the first cd I ever bought, and I still have it, original jewel case, no broken spokes or anything, although I'm afraid the long box has been lost to the ages. Anyway, 25 minutes give or take of some of the most gut wrenchingly powerful death thrash that still holds up today can be found on this release. Wicked, insanely fast riffery from Mike Scaccia who would later move onto Ministry(who would under appreciate his ability), flawless played speed bass from Casey Orr, pummeling drums from Harden Harrison, who like Chuck Biscuits, never utilized the waterfall of double kick drumming that so came to characterize the genre. The vocals of Doyle Bright are truly tortured sounding as well, although I have to say that I prefer Bruce Corbitt's vocals a little more, as he put more enunciation into his screaming. Stand out tracks for me are 'The Haunted,' and 'Six Feet Under/Worms of the Earth.' The lyrics are pure nightmare inspiring, especially on 'The Haunted,' where it says "Prey that you won't meet the haunted tonight..." and then demonically bellows "You WIll!" Yep, great times back in the day. I'm a month away from turning 31 and have such disdain for 99% of what passes for 'metal' these days. If only newer bands would look into the past and realize that actual mastery of an instrument is more important than the fashion trend fatality bands we're stuck with today.

Solid death/thrash - 78%

RequiredFields, April 12th, 2003

This is very heavy, very technical, extremely fast and extremely brutal death/thrash played with total cruelty. Mike Scaccia, the guitar player, is a demon on the guitar. He has to be one of the most technical guitar players in the genre. He is one of the fastest as well. He can shred!

If you like old school thrash and death metal, you will like this CD. Their are five songs on this EP, all of them are fast and brutally heavy. The album opens with "Freaks", which is one of the best songs ever. The CD contains pummeling riffs...prepare to break the neck that doesn't break! The album clocks in at about 25 minutes, but once the scream at the end of the closing track, "Chained in the Attic" is over, you will be on your knees begging for more. Rigor Mortis have a unique sound for a death/thrash band. Vocalist Doyle Bright is fucking pissed as hell, an underrated singer for sure. This is an underrated and overlooked thrash/death metal CD.

Speeding thrash riffs that kick ass!! - 90%

PowerMetalGuardian, March 10th, 2003

I am gonna kill the fucker who said EP's suck! This album is filled with thrash riffs. You can't get thrashier than this. This album has the fast blast off riffs and constant drum beat (ie. Freaks) but manages to have the slow riff and constant drum beat (ie. Cattle Mutilation). The riffs are just plain out thrastacular! The beginning of Freaks is filled with headbanging riffs. Six Feet Under has one of the coolest, and most techincal, thrash solo. A strong thrash EP. I can see why these guys are kind of death metal, but then again not really. The vocals are excellent, straight out thrash vocals. They kind of sound like Venom at points. He even lets out a loud scream at the end of Chained in the Attic. But for most of the time the vocals are very low style and growly! Production for an Ep is overall great, no problems here. Even on the song Haunted towards the end of the song they use this cool vocal distored thing so the vocals are faded!!! Straight out thrash metal that kicks ass! I recommend this to any thrash metal head!!!!!!!