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Alas, this one was not to be. 2003, the year when seemingly every melodic metal band on the planet released a kick ass album, produced this shining gem amidst its fields. Tad Morose are one of those bands that is just inimitable. You can’t really copy them – you can get down the big, groovy riffs and you can hire a vocalist that sounds sorta-kinda like Breed, but you can’t really re-capture the feeling of their three albums from Undead to this one, Modus Vivendi.
One thing I really dig about this is just that the riffs are allowed full breadth to really knock the wind out of you. Tad Morose was – is? – a band that knew how to utilize their guitar sound – not just the style – to its fullest extent. This album is packed with great, hammering, old school-style riffs done up with a very idiosyncratic groove, the kind that some bands can just work with and make hookier than a barrel full of fish bait. Every riff reverberates heavily and rattles your bones. The guitars are sufficiently heavy and dry-sounding, and most of all just have that excellently HEAVY sound that just rules all out. And as such, every riff is pretty much gold, even the more standard sounding ones.
The other thing that really makes this great is just the sense of groove that I briefly mentioned above. It really makes the band who they are. This is not your standard groove – instead this is a powerful and vital sound that takes the already-good riffs and enhances them, giving them an avalanche-like feel where they just don’t ever stop coming. There isn’t really a moment on here where the powerful, deep-ridged groove isn’t rolling along the riffs like they’re coming at you on a conveyor belt, and it just sounds great. A real metallic assault on the senses.
This album starts out bellowing with the excellent “Anubis” and just never lets up, although it is a bit uneven in terms of song quality. Although mostly that just means that some tunes are absolutely the best the band ever wrote, and others are merely good to great. “Mother Shipton’s Words” and “Uninvited Guest” are in the ‘good’ category, being tunes that are solidly written to headbang and sing along to – just good, unpretentious heavy metal in the old Metal Church or Helstar mode. But “Afraid to Die,” “Take On the World” and “Cyberdome” are more in the ‘holy-Gods-of-Olympia this is awesome’ category, as they are all examples of how to write this kind of metal. Check out the spacious, elaborate arrangement of “Afraid to Die,” and how it packs in atmosphere and density while still remaining a reasonably immediate, ass-kicking tune. Or the futuristic, frigid grooves of “Cyberdome,” as masterfully articulate a song as any written by the classic bands. This is excellent songwriting in general, for any genre.
There is a very polished, clean feel to this whole thing, with each song being catchy but also refined and complex enough to reveal deeper layers. It’s a good balance between the two that I think really showed signs that the band was on the verge, musically at least, of really breaking out and becoming huge. This could have been a transition album into the kind of stardom the band deserved, but sadly they sort of fizzled out and have not released anything since. I don’t know why, and maybe someday they’ll come back and deliver another great album. But for now, this is a good page break for their career at the present. Masterful, powerful, hooky metal that any fan of the more melodic genres needs right now.