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The Cadaverous Retaliation Agenda is like a granite slab with six commandments of heresy and domination inscribed upon it. It's like a blueprint for everything The Project Hate MCMXCIX have yet recorded and a culmination of all of their monstrous releases, all at once. It's massive.
I have listened to pretty much everything by this band with what I would consider vast appreciation and minute attention to detail. However given the colossal concepts and incredibly intricate and careful execution of everything that goes on under the eagle-like scrutiny of Lord K, I'm sure I've missed some of it in my ongoing quest to drink an ocean of beer and find all the best bands in almost every sub-genre of metal everywhere. BUT. I think I'm in my rights to say that this is the best record by this band yet. Having gone back to my previous favourites - I usually can't decide between the preceding three - returning to this really was a treat, proving its superiority. Then it took a good listen to the instrumental side for this review to start coming into shape. There's a lot to get to grips with.
The grooving, electronic death metal of earlier albums like Cybersonic Superchrist, the towering inferno of ravenous extremity and cinematic scope of recent records like The Lustrate Process and Bleeding the New Apocalypse, it's just all in there. One defining characteristic of this record is its habit of droning on into bass-dominated passages of sinister groove, before heaving into utmost aggression which quickly escalates. In fact each of these huge, 10+ minute works is an exercise in attacking the listener in as multitudinous and intricate a manner possible, while ensuring that each and every tone and note remains undeniably a part of the 80 minute whole. The disparate artillery used throughout, the constant contrasts and complexities become its forte. For example, the guitar leads on the wonderfully named opening song 'I Feed You the Flesh of Your Poisonous Christ', and throughout tend toward older death metal, toward a little eastern influence, and harbour a little bit of a traditional feel in places; the extremely organic sounding instruments throw up a great contrast to the cold electronics. Again, that opening mammoth features absolutely huge chugging sections, surrounded by a mishmash of cinematic strings and rude almost-dubstep beats. Then in 'Carving Out the Tongues Which Speak of Salvation', after one of the album's ugliest blasting death metal sections, classical guitars (courtesy of usual drummer Tobias) and mournful strings build into a full-band climax and guitar solo that could almost make you tear. 'Welcome the Judas Agenda', a nine-minute instrumental closer in six parts that is nothing short of gripping, moves from the brilliantly artful classical guitar solos of Lars from Candlemass (which are seriously some of the best he's done; fans of the 'Mass need to hear the record for this reason alone) and morose quietude to deadly, melodic extreme metal battery (featuring probably the Dirk performance of the entire album and therefore year of 2012) and back again. The concept and composition is flawless. Flawless and insane. Completely insane to be honest, and a nightmare to review, but when experienced - fuggen' awesome.
I interviewed K shortly after the release of the album; he made the comment that this vastly scaled and very complicated creation is "not something you put on while you clean the house'' or words to that effect. And I completely agree. Except that you could. You really could. The album is so crammed with catchy-ass leads, remorseless rhythms and standout moments of absolutely every kind both vocal and instrumental, that only a passing interest in and appreciation of the album's depth is required for massive enjoyment. The cool vocal effects used for Jorgen and Ruby from time to time. The rampaging death metal outbursts in 'We Watch in Silence as the Earth Turns to Blood', and the powering melodies transfigured into brutish riffs and guttural chants in my personal favourite, 'Conquering the Throne of the Weak and Cadaverous', that show you just how seriously these fuckers mean business. No brutality and no immediacy has been sacrificed for this high-concept piece of epic industrial battery. Sure I take K's point, this will sail right over the heads of many, but as far as the attentive listener is concerned, this thing is packed to the rafters with highlights.
The production and sound is among the best this year. It's just remarkably clear, and punishingly heavy; a combination recent TPH albums have strived for and achieved but not yet to this masterful degree. The bass sound is huge, worth admission alone, just really raw, chunky, throaty stuff that barks gutturally along in the background pretty much the whole time - so you'll hear electronic shit and blasts like you never heard em before. From the first moments of 'I Feed You the Flesh of Your Poisonous Christ', the huge, grunting bulldozer bass sound is kicking your arse - and of course, Jorgen Sandstrom's deepest, most extreme vocal performance yet (there are even some grind-style vocals on 'The Great Retaliation is Upon Them'. Everything and everyone here is pushed to its limits, and it pays dividends.
Current singer, Ruby Roque, gets a lot of stick from fans of erstwhile pipes Jonna, and though both are awesome in their own way Ruby has two very important advantages that are flaunted on TCRA: vocal lines memorable enough to spring unbidden to mind during repeated listens, and a lot of general badassery in her deliverance. Not to mention the sheer range and power she's capable of. You know why she gets shit, and why you should disregard and where possible punish those providing said shit? If she was a bearded Norwegian man nailing vocal lines and notes like these, she'd probably already have a solo project and be featured in Terrorizer. People expect "female vocals" to conform to their expectations of femininity. Well fuck you, these are killer vocals regardless. Not just anyone can provide this sort of counterpoint to the original vocalist of Grave, bitches. Drums meanwhile are handled by Dirk Verbeuren this time around - of Devin Townsend, Soilwork and shitloads-else fame - and he does a more than adequate job of filling in for Tobias. Though I'm a big fan of that guy's articulately brutal style, Dirk brings a nice steamroller feel to the affair, and being a pretty diverse and innovative drummer is suited to the plethora of moods, paces and tricks required by this complex creation.
There were some comments that the electronic elements are not as well integrated. Bitch please. What has happened here is that the techno breaks and samples so strongly associated with the band have been so deeply embraced into the layered and complex sound that its now all one. Listening carefully, you'll find that a more diverse range of inorganic sounds than ever abounds on the album; though they might be the basis of a section defined by a guitar lead, rather than a melody in themselves over rhythm guitars as is considered conventional... And as is far easier to consume. There are also six instrumental pieces largely comprised of symphonies, pianos and ripping techno coolness that would make a very neat soundtrack for some dark thriller movie. Probably the best for me is 'DCLXIV' - very nice tripping beats and weird electronic sounds.
If I might include one more snippet from that interview I did with K (original research like), it is this, from the man himself regarding lyrics: "It’s a constant war against Christianity and the lunacy displayed by it will provide us with ammunition for centuries to come." This album, if this is what that ammunition is being loaded into, I don't like the chances of the Vatican. The only way to conclude this labour-of-love of a review is: how the fuck do you top this? Your move, Swedish and Portuguese masters of this here dominating shit.
If you've listened to The Project Hate MCMXCIX before, you'll know what to expect. Crushing guitars, creative riffs, bass that's actually used as an instrument, synths, dark industrial/techno beats and sometimes orchestras interwoven with Swedish death metal, along with a good contrast between growls and clean singing. It's a mixed bag and a bit of an acquired taste, but the result is phenomenal.
The Cadaverous Retaliation Agenda overall isn't too different from their previous work, Bleeding The New Apocalypse. It certainly feels like a sequel to that album. The only new element is clean and acoustic guitars, which are used very effectively. It's such a simple addition and adds to the atmosphere greatly. What really separates TCRA from The Project Hate's other albums is the scale of it. This is certainly their grandest work by a long shot. To quote drummer Dirk Verbeuren's comment in one of their promo videos, it's "adventurous, inspired and crushing". The songs are longer (ranging from 9 to 15 minutes) and they're much more complex. This is an album for loyal TPH fans (it was only available to those who donated towards its recording until Judas leaked it on the day of writing this review), not the beginner.
Jörgen Sandström, who has performed the harsh vocals on every TPH album (with the exception of Deadmarch), is nothing short of incredible on this album. He's always been a great vocalist, but now he sounds completely brutal. Less intelligible and focusing more on low growls than on other releases, he is nothing short of demonic. These are some of the best growls I've ever heard in a death metal album. You ever wonder what Satan sounds like? Buy this album and find out.
Ruby Roque joined TPH for their last album, Bleeding The New Apocalypse, and she's only gotten better. Her vocals are more varied now, with softer sections as opposed to the powerful delivery she mostly gave on BTNA, and she's definitely become a proper member of the band and not just "the new girl". Some fans will prefer Mia Stahl and Jonna Enckell's more angelic voices on previous releases, but Ruby complements Jörgen much better than her predecessors.
Dirk Verbeuren of Soilwork fame is the session drummer on this album and he's superb. He has the speed, accuracy and technical ability to provide the structure for the rest of the music. I will be very happy if he performs on another TPH record.
And lastly, we have the mastermind behind The Project Hate, Lord K Philipson, who handles programming, guitar and bass duties (though Tobias Gustafsson, their usual drummer, recorded the acoustic guitars). He composes the vast majority of TPH's music (Ruby wrote some of her own lyrics) and this album is a shining example of his musical craftsmanship. His guitar riffs are catchy as hell, sometimes very melodic, sometimes veering into black metal territory (like in "Welcome The Judas Agenda"), but always very heavy and have that distinctive Swedish buzzsaw tone that many love, combined with a mechanical edge that suits the industrial element of TPH (the very first riff on the album demonstrates this well). The techno sections are fantastic, even better than those found on 2003's Hate, Dominate, Congregate, Eliminate. Orchestras, particularly brass, are used tastefully to add emphasis and power to the songs. The bass sound is incredible, and certainly made my skin crawl in a good but weird way. I'm not even a bassist, and this was one of my favourite elements of the album.
Lyrically, nothing ever really changes with TPH. An album might focus on a particular theme like angels or possession, but it's always violent and anti-Christian. However, they're well-written and angry, perfectly suited for death metal. Combined with two amazing vocalists, I really cannot complain about the lyrics.
The only problem with this album, and the reason behind my deduction of 1%, is a very particular violin sample in the song, "Welcome The Judas Agenda". It's the same sample used in the YouTube series, "Regular Ordinary Swedish Mealtime", and as such, my immersion in the album was broken when I heard it. It's very pedantic, yes, and is literally my only complaint. If you've never watched ROSM, this album is flawless.
Overall, this album is, as the title says, a masterpiece. This is The Project Hate at their best yet. Will they ever top it? I'm not sure, but K is one of the most creative musicians around right now, and he's got a good team crafting these beasts with him.
Like I said, the album was only available to those who paid for it initially. It was leaked today (4/01/13), but I implore you to purchase it. It's being sold for 15 euros, a good price, and it's one of the greatest albums you will ever hear. This is art, but it's expensive art to create. You will not be disappointed with your purchase.