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Rigor Mortis may have had a secure reputation as the champions of Texas thrash (Suck it, Pantera) but they never truly got their due back in the day. They never could've been a commercial juggernaut but their signing to Capitol Records and having members go on to join Ministry and GWAR has to say something about their talent. Their 1988 debut is the center-point of their legacy and one of the most unique albums in the thrash metal genre.
Hindsight may place this effort in the thrash realm, but it came pretty damn close to death metal when it was first released. The drums are more violent than their contemporaries, the guitars more relentless, the vocals somewhere between a deep crossover yell and a high-pitched death growl, and the raw production gives everything a sharp sandpaper taste. It's comparable to Scream Bloody Gore or Seven Churches, but still has kinship with what Exodus and Kreator had been doing a couple years before.
They must've been taking cues from Alice Cooper or King Diamond since this album is also more theatrical than most thrash groups. From the dramatic intros that pulsate in every track to the climactic song structures and flowing track order, it has the feel of a concept album that really adds to its sinister approach. Throw in some lyrics involving gore, demons, and kinky sex gone wrong and you've got the ultimate 80s slasher soundtrack!
But what really set Rigor Mortis apart was their musicianship. With only one guitarist in their roster, the band runs the risk of sounding thin but Mike Scaccia absolutely dominates the release with his insane tremolo runs and even more manic soloing. In addition, Bruce Corbitt's vocals aren't for everyone but his visceral yet hammy touch makes songs like "Bodily Dismemberment" and "Shroud of Gloom" sound pretty unique. But Casey Orr may be the hardest working member as his bass leads the way on "Wizard of Gore" and "Vampire" while his untrained barks make "Demons" and "Die In Pain" sound even nastier.
The hostile attitude and camp aesthetics make it obvious why Rigor Mortis never hit the big time, but the writing and presentation on their debut album show why they sure as hell would've deserved it. It's a very niche record that people outside of the genre won't revere, but I don't exaggerate when I call it one of the best thrash metal albums of all time. They probably could've cut a song or two but I think the album could only be improved by playing it while watching an old horror film on mute. There has to be some way to sync this up with one of the Texas Chainsaw Massacres...
"Wizard of Gore"
"Die In Pain"
Originally published at http://psychicshorts.blogspot.com
I don't dish out a one hundred percent rating too hastily but this album is fully deserved of it. There is never a dull moment here and every track has enough energy to wake your dead grandma. In fact, the track "Re-Animator" will be fully appropriate for her re-animation, get it? Never mind.
The first thing you will notice when you are into the first few tracks is there is a heck of a lot of hyper fast tremolo picking involved in both the riffs and solos. The key is they are memorable as hell and each song pretty much keeps the same tempo without sounding boring or repetitive. Actually the leads are so astonishingly impressive most of the time that it can be difficult to focus on the drumming and bass, but they are indeed there and almost equally as impressive as the leads, the bass is actually surprisingly audible, particularly during most of the solos which keeps you headbanging, speaking of solos, you will hear some utterly hectic, distorted and insane ones during most songs, but not in an "all over the place" manner like a Slayer fest, they have a sense of direction and they seems to pop up at perfect times too, "Vampire" utilizes them to full effect and is one of the best thrash metal songs ever.
Now, the lyrics are pretty easy to follow, pain, gore, demons, death. There's a touch of humor about the whole thing but clearly they are purposely humorous. The vocal delivery is perfect for both the style of play and the lyrical content, aggressive and loud, like a more deeper, controlled Paul Baloff with a bit more of a sinister sound to them. It's almost impossible not to sing along with some of the choruses on songs like "Shroud Of Gloom", "Re-Animator" because of their catchy, furious rhythms. Even the bonus track "Foaming At The Mouth" is particularly fun to shout along: "I'm foaming! At the mouth! Now I foam! At the mouth! I also find myself humming nearly every riff in this album. Each song structure follows the same pattern, they don't bother boring us with any technicalities or plodding, it's all fast, impressive rhythms, fast impressive solos, fast impressive everything else, but are all easily individually recognizable.
The production is adequate, if anything suffers from bad production it's the drumming, luckily the drummer is more than adequate. There is really little to complain about other than that. Some tracks are lyrically based on horror movies like "Re-Animator" and "Wizard Of Gore" which makes it a bit more fun to listen to, especially if you've seen the films.
You may have a hard time picking favorite tracks because they are all exceptional. This album truly deserves all the praise it gets, which isn't much considering the quality of this effort, Good luck trying to get a copy.
I'm pretty sure God exists. He is a metalhead. He made this album under the Rigor Mortis monicker. There is no other possible explanation of why this album is so perfect!
Beyond my awful humour and overreacting, I have to say, this album is magnificent. No other thrash metal album can touch this. It's a hybrid of Morbid Saint, Whiplash's Power And Pain and Heathen. I've listened to this album a total of 30 times. Not once have I managed to properly use it as background music. It's impossible! This album is so full of energy, you just can't stop headbanging and screaming gory stuff.
First of all, the guitars. Mike Scaccia sure knows how to use his instrument. Every guitar riff and solo in this album, is outstanding. Alternating between thrash and death metal riffing, using tremolo picking, triplets and power chords, it sure is difficult to get bored. When it comes to guitar solos, one thing is sure. Never again have neo-classical solos and tapping been so brutal. It's unlike anything I' ve heard. Full of distortion, extremely fast and melodic. It feels like Malmsteen is covering Morbid Angel.
Moving on to the drums, I have to say I'm pretty impressed. Harden Harrison has put up an amazing performance. The drumming in this album is extremely fast paced. The best part, is the feeling you get from it, and that's anger. It's the definition of extreme metal drumming. What's extraordinary though, is how noticeable it is. Harden manages to draw your attention without any wanky playing or brutal blastbeats.
Now, about the vocals. Corbitt sure is a talented singer. His raspy voice fits the music perfectly. What's amazing is that he is able to sing/shout really fast without losing any word. That, mixed with gang shouting and some screaming, is a mind-blowing combination.
And finally, the bass guitar. What's the point anyway right? Great bass lines are practically non-existent in death/thrash metal. At least that's what I thought before I listen to this album. At times, you won't notice it's the bass playing instead of the guitar. It's not just audible, it's headbangable too. Just listen to that bass line in "Vampire". And I most certainly don't mean the intro.
To sum up, this album is everything a thrasher wants. It's brutal, it's fast and really intense. But, really now, what's sets this apart from everything else? Is it the riffs? The guitar solos? The drumming? Most certainly, not! It's the passion. These guys love what they're doing, and you feel it, the moment you press the play button. For me, that's what Metal is all about. Passion!
PS: I highly suggest you to purchase the remastered version, as "Foaming At The Mouth" and "Grudge Fuck" are masterpieces.
Another casualty of the early 90s, Rigor Mortis were very far up the ladder of bands that had the potential and underground popularity to explode into the next Slayer or Metallica. Their self-titled debut in 1988 is a well-loved slab of sadistic, high speed thrash metal, and the only release of the band that I really liked.
Rigor Mortis is pretty damned heavy. As a starting point, take the rapid picking of Slayer and add a layer of musical proficiency to the evil rhythms this creates. "Welcome to Your Funeral" is a 3:30 track which showcases the band's instrumental abilities, in particular the guitars with their infernal desire to shred. After a flowing, fast acoustic segment, "Demons" will introduce you to the brutal vocals of Bruce Corbitt, reminiscent of Sacred Reich and Nasty Savage but a little darker. "Bodily Dismemberment" follows, an amazing song, probably the best on the album, for its opening tapping rhythm, and the grim, celebratory gait at which it marches forward, with walls of crashing rhythms and lyrics that libate the perverse, serial killer.
'There's no need to worry bitch, just lay there and relax
And as you reach your climax I'll be reaching for my axe!
With five easy slices, you're in six lovely pieces
Bodily dismemberment as passion increases'
Pretty intense lyrics for 1988! Remember, this is before the full-blown death metal scene produced a thousand, dime a dozen gore bands with lyrics about Ed Gein and Jeffrey Dahmer in the following decade. Most of the lyrics here are based on horror films. "Condemend to Hell" is another of the record's sickest tracks, with a fantastic, glorious thrusting rhythm guitar. "Wizard of Gore" has a great acoustic intro, and then more of the band's frenetically paced, tappy guitar lines. Two of other highlights are "Shroud of Gloom" and the final track, "Slow Death", which races past at blinding speed.
Rigor Mortis may not have transcended their underground status, but at the least they gave us this one fine release. The following Freaks EP and their later Rigor Mortis vs. The Earth album did little for me, and the band soon parted, with members going to GWAR and Ministry, among others. A few years ago, the band got back together for some small tours and shows, and I assume they still exist for that purpose, but whether or not we'll get a true successor to this album remains in doubt.
Highlights: Bodily Dismemberment, Condemned to Hell, Wizard of Gore, Shroud of Gloom
This is it folks, my personal "album of the year" you could say, probably the best thing I've discovered within the last several months. Might be a little early to throw such a claim out there but if I find anything that can really top this or even rank up next to it, I'll be damned. Towards the end of 2007 and around the beginning of this year I found myself becoming increasingly interested in thrash, though I've always been a little picky about my thrash. Basically, I still don't dwell into the brutal or death genres too much yet I still wanted to hear something intense, incredibly heavy, evil, and insanely freaking fast. Rigor Mortis' self-titled debut here was exactly what I was searching for.
Though I certainly don't want to mislead any of the brutal/death fans away from this by saying that, you'll really be missing out on some legendary stuff here if you put it aside. It's still pretty damn dark, unadulterated heavy metal with balls of steel. This vile atmosphere is easily obtained thanks to vocalist Bruce Corbitt. This guy is pretty much the Unicron of metal vocalists. Once you hear his commanding, deep, barbaric voice, you'll tremble in fear. The best part is as the other reviewers have pointed out, unlike a lot of vocalists of this style you can actually understand the lyrics Corbitt's singing downright easily and that makes this even more enjoyable. It's definitely a shame there's not a lot of other vocalists out there quite like this.
So you wanna play games do ya?
Well just who do you think you're fucking with?!
You see I've learned everything the hard way.
Yes I've been through hell and back!
Next thing I guess I'll discuss is the production. Again I hate to repeat the previous reviewers but they really nailed what's going on here. Those expecting a thunderous production like Dark Angel's stuff, Demolition Hammer, Kreator, or whatever, might be a little disappointed here. It's still certainly heavier than a lot of things out there and even tons of thrash releases at the time, but the mix is pretty much solely focused on the guitar (along with the vocals standing out clearly too). This is somewhat of a shame because bassist Casey Orr and drummer Harden Harrison are way above average themselves. The drums are pretty impressive and dynamic, though often lost in the distance. The bass gets overshadowed for the most part but it does peak around the corner here and there and damn, it's really impressive that Orr manages to keep up with the guitars and even some solo's from time to time. Regardless, guitarist Mike Scaccia is constantly standing at the top of The Great Pyramid of Cholula through every single second of this album. If his sheer ability doesn't make up for the odd production, then you're just weird. (Honestly though as a big speed metal fan the production really doesn't bother me that much at all. So if you enjoy the guitar driven stuff like Agent Steel's first two albums or whatnot, then this might be a big plus for some).
So yeah, if it again wasn't made clear already by the other reviews I'll just strengthen the point: Mike Scaccia is insane and literally incomparable. It's really mind blowing how all the rhythm's, the riffs, and the riddled leads that pop up constantly are all incredibly dynamic. If that makes sense. Usually some guitarists out there just say "Hey look I can play really fast!" and with Scaccia here it's "Hey bud, my rhythm's are constantly evolving, my melodies shred planets into dust, I'll even throw in some melodic neo-classical influenced solo's here and there, and my originality on each track is unprecedented ... all at the same time!" - On top of all this another thing I'll point out is that even with the solo's, you can practically hear every single damn string he hits and it's almost scary to comprehend. The solo's are incredibly smooth and majestic while he's rapidly firing away hitting notes showing no signs of slowing down. Indeed, Scaccia must have the arms of some God or something from out of this world.
The album itself is pretty much perfect through and through, there's not a single bad track in sight at all. Though I honestly think the instrumental intro Welcome To Your Funeral (very appropriate title!) and even Demons are kind of like a tease compared to the rest of the songs. I mean, I'm already in awe when these tracks are playing but when Bodily Dismemberment starts up ... my head just explodes. Next song that always comes to mind is Wizard Of Gore, I don't think metal gets much more headbang-able than this. This is also where I think Corbitt truly dominates with the vocals (if he wasn't already awesome enough), especially after the middle segment of the song (after about 3:00) just listen to Corbitt, that energy pierces Mount Olympus. I also have to say the guitar distortions on this track are insanely cool. Directly after this there's Shroud Of Gloom which I believe fully emphasis my point on being able to hear Scaccia hitting every single string with the solo. Die In Pain has bassist Orr on vocals, he does a commendable job but it is kind of a reminder of how impressive Corbitt, whom takes up the spot again with the rest of the songs. Vampire gets an honorable mention as well because it probably has my favorite solo off the entire album and no, not the crazy shredding the beginning! You'll hit it about midway in, easily one of the more dynamic and melodic solo's on here. I know I'm going a little over the top here but I've also gotta say Corbitt gives off a really cool and arrogant performance on Slow Death, it fits perfectly. It took me awhile to get the re-issue with the bonus tracks but I can easily agree with the former reviews, simply put they're just as good as the album itself.
Right off the bat I was captivated. This album completely delivered what I was searching for, constantly charging at light speed it's probably one of the fastest guitar driven albums I've ever heard while managing to have no issues with repetition or whatnot. I've been hooked since I discovered it and can easily see it becoming a top favorite of mine in due time. If you're looking for something insanely fast, pretty damn original, with a fairly vile image, seek this out immediately! And even if you're like me and don't usually touch the brutal thrash / death metal genres, put the fear aside and give it a shot. Be prepared. Wonder what would happen if you put Mike Scaccia and Bernie Versailles together ...
Let's get the apologies out of the way first: I am a Rigor Mortis fanboy from the late 80's, and this is most likely going to be my only fanboy review ever. Unless, of course, I ever manage to get a CD copy of Blind Illusion's The Sane Asylum, which is the best thing any metallic thing has ever produced. It will get a 100%, and has already set my personal standard for everything done after it. But until that extremely hypothetical moment, I am sorry to lose my own internally perceived objectivity. I really promise to reserve the 95+ range for the rare and true masterpieces.
Rigor Mortis's self-titled is one of those masterpieces. It has its pros and cons, but in the end, the pros beat the crap, guts, brain and liver out of the cons, and leave the battlefield in gory victory. Everything on the album has an edge, and nothing is a mellow compromise: the production kind of sucks when judged by the modern standards of high fidelity, and rules when judged as it is, the lyrics are idiotic but fun, guitar playing is extremely good, the songs are magnificient examples of basic but ingenious simplicity, the cover art is a masterpiece of sorts, and the whole image is a pure consciously self-ironic bull's eye. As the great Finnish humour magazine, Pahkasika (R.I.P.), once wrote, "only mediocrity is failure", and that fits this album exactly.
The production of the album is a child of its time, but despite the unfinished surfaces and the coarse surface, it works wonders. Most of the time, the most audible elements are either the vocals or the guitar. The drums, almost like a collection of cardboard boxes and tin cans, are somewhere in the background, providing the beat but not much else... unless you really pay attention to them, which is not an undertaking supported by the overall sound. The drumming might be archetypal, but at the same time, it epitomizes the late 80's thrash drumming, from the times when bands like Rigor Mortis started to flirt with the filth was later to become death metal. The bass is like a inner tube of a tire of an old bicycle, stretched and plucked by a skillful player, but most of the time replacing a rhythm guitar to back up Scaccia's guitar mastery. It shows it's true excellence only momentarily every once in a while, and mostly remains almost unnoticeable, churning in the background next to the drums, but with a mission; at no point does the music contain rhythm guitar parts and leads that could not be played simultaneously by a guitar prodigy such as Scaccia. The production could have been better, or, rather, today's audience would expect something with a more clinical sound, but Rigor Mortis is a masterpiece of its own age, and the overall sound has an gritty balance unequalled by today's thrash.
The best part on the album is the guitar. Mike Scaccia must have been one of the fastest guitarists of the 80's, and the sheer speed and fury is amazing. It might well be that this kind of guitar-emphasizing production has been an conscious choice, as the guitar is the force that carries the whole band, and Scaccia's style is unique. His rhythm guitar is good, although often bordering on a continuous lead guitar, but the lead parts themselves are the real spice of the album. I don't really understand the technical side of guitar playing, but I believe some of the solos are intentionally written the way they are, simply so that they could be played in these extreme speeds at all; tremolo-picked extremely high-speed slides from a note to the next, packed with furious speed. There's more than a hint of very rapid slides from one note to the next, and the notes change from one to the next without an interval of any kind. Maybe it would have taken too many milliseconds to raise the finger off the fret board before hitting the next note. Scaccia is fast, period.
The vocals are an exquisite rarity. Bruce Corbitt's style is a kind of coarse shouting, but it's still fairly easy to hear the lyrics. Usually any band with gory lyrics has such brutal vocals that any traces of lyrical contents are immediately lost. Not here. Corbitt's voice is not brutal in a black metal or brutal death sense, but damn, he sounds angry and serious enough to be a bit scary. Today's thrash has been flooded with screaming gremlins and coarse growlers, and I miss this kind of vocals. He sounds like a big and angry man, and shouts effortlessly. There is an actual feeling of a flaming maniac who simply tells what he wants to happen, and has enough insane authority to make it happen. Magnificient! Losing -or kicking out- this man was a bad blow to the band, and eventually sentenced the band's third album to oblivion.
The bass and drums, as mentioned above, are just stuff filling the background and supporting the whole. These guys are not on par with the highly technical Sadus bassist and drummer from approximately the same years, for example, but their mission is to keep the flogging and frantic beating going on, and they succeed. The foundation of any kind of good metal is in the drums, bass, and riffs; here, Scaccia goes beyond the riffing saveral times, and the rhythm section's irreplaceable mission is to keep the thrashing alive. The drums suffer the worst fate of all in the hands of the production, and the clicking on the ride plate is the only part of the kit that can be clearly heard all the time in addition to the basic beat, even to the point of mild annoyance. The drumming has plenty of little fills and the bass -when audible- does nice, if straightforward, little things.
Songwriting on the album is done with a single purpose: to give Scaccia a chance to play guitar the way he does. The basic structures are rather simple, and the guitar and the vocals take turns in pushing the speeding music forward. This is a down-to-earth, no-bullshit approach to thrash metal, and should be appreciated the way it is.
The lyrics are, you guessed it, gore, and even bloodier than your average Shaun Hutson novel. Mostly they re-create 70's and early 80's splatter movies, including Wizard of Gore (1970) and Re-animator (1985), and other stories with enough blood to be positively ridiculous. Or what do you think:
Buckets of blood
Bowls of eyeballs"
If someone actually manages to take that very seriously, I salute him, and suggest a chemically induced reality check inside the closest funny farm and staying away from black metal altogether. The theme of the band, including the instantly recognizable cover, is a nice attempt at creating the kind of self-ironic atmosphere that pervades the Tromateam movies and many horror comics. The attempt is largely successful, and I just love the intentionally campy feeling combined with extravagant excellence of the music. Beautiful, idiotic and fun.
Finally, the extra tracks. As the album was re-released after the band allegedly reformed, they added three extra tracks. Now, usually that sucks. Take the Megadeth re-releases as an example: there are remixes, nearly worthless rejects from the original albums, and generally mediocre bonus songs. As I waited for my copy to arrive in the mail, I was worried about a possible dilution of an exceptional album by uninspired filler tracks. My fear was unfounded: the two studio tracks, Foaming at the Mouth and Grudge Fuck, are as good as the original songs. The third, Spivey, is a strange live song. The sleeve simply states "Previously unreleased for very good reason!", and the lyrics are missing. The song is a joke, obviously, but the corny falsetto choir repeating "Spivey, Spivey" over and over again in the background is absolutely hilarious. The recording also proves the live prowess of the band. Not a bad addition, in my opinion.
All in all, the album is an uncompromizing and frustratingly little-known work of art. Buy it, and make up your own mind. It is certainly good enough for me to admit being a fanboy: it took eight years, from the moment I ditched my crappy, broken cassette copy of this divine thrash piece, to the moment when I finally opened the box and got my new re-release CD. At no point during those years did it fall out of my "top five albums of all time" list, despite it's absence. Do yourself a self-inflicted favour and give it a try. Just don't hurt yourself in the process.
Rigor Mortis' self-titled LP is absolutely flawless. The gnarly trio put theirself on the map as thrash metal on the fringe of death. The intro, Welcome To Your Funeral, is saturated with gritty, yet melodic riffs. It is a sign for things to come.
Track two delivers us to Demons. This had to be the heaviest thrash around in 1988. In fact, it’s quite complicated to play as loud and aggressive as Rigor Mortis without sounding like shit. Rigor Mortis instills a killer melody into deafening riffs. Demons blew me away when I first heard it. The riffs are furious and the solos are extraordinary. Some say they don't like the vocals…. Yes, Corbitt is flirting with death vocals, but he has the perfect voice for it. His violent and raspy singing goes hand in hand with the brutal lyrics.
After listening to Demons, I thought things couldn't get better. Bodily Dismemberment proved me wrong. These murderous lyrics are backed by more amazing riffs. Warning: Its melody may prompt you to kill the nearest living being. Things just keep improving. Track four, Condemned To Hell, has to be one of the greatest songs of all time. Mike exterminates another solid riff. He twists every note into the perfect form, inflicting a lethal rhythm over Corbitt’s vocals. The chorus is perfect, Bruce wails the refrain as if he was descending into hell himself. I can't even think of a band to compare this too. Perhaps one can describe it as a more melodic version of Dark Angel or Kreator. But, even that is pushing it. Rigor Mortis is fast, unique, and ruthless. I couldn't ask for more.
Wizard Of Gore keeps up the pace. The initial riff is a little slow, but it picks up with the chorus. Great lyrics, astounding variation of guitar solos and unblemished riffs. Scaccia kicks out another similar riff for Shroud Of Gloom. The chorus comes into play about 25 seconds into the song. It’s wicked, and quite impressive. It’s a miracle to the scene that they’ve reunited. Bands these days just can't seem to produce such violent tunes. Die In Pain, what can I say that hasn't been said above. Another brutal song, with a top drawer extended chorus. There isn't a bad track on Rigor Mortis. Vampire will have you screaming "She Will Rot" around the house. Rigor Mortis exercises forceful thrash without going overboard and sounding stupid. Re-Animator is a song about a nutcase retrieving bodies from a morgue and trying to turn them into zombies. It fits quite appropriately with the album. The LP is concluded with Slow Death. It's initiated with an ingenious intro, hideous sirens and screams. Orr;s high backing shout over the sirens sounds murderous.
Anyway if you like thrash/death this album is for you. I can't see how a thrash fan wouldn't like this. The only thing that might deter one is the raspy vocals. I'm usually not a fan of them myself, but they sound well with this album. Best place to listen to this album: The cemetery at night. If you discover this album, and you are a true thrash fan, make no mistakes and purchase it.