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This is the album Vader should have followed their lovely anniversary package XXV with. On the one hand, this is so damn good it makes me look more kindly on the spotty Necropolis, and on the other it would just be so much more appropriate for it to be this album that followed two discs of utter, utter classics re-recorded and sounding fucken fresh as ever.
I'm going to start by saying that this album contains a re-recording of 'Decapitated Saints' from The Ultimate Incantation, and that it fits. One of my favourite songs from a debut that delivered a knockout punch with almost each number fits on this album like it was written for it. And that is the best way to persuade the old school dudes that, if you stopped listening to Vader, here is where you pick up again. So enough of masturbating over re-recordings and old triumphs, onto why this is one of the mad Pole's greatest moments.
The return to the old logo is no piss-take. The band is sounding tight, old school, and pissed off enough to be half the comfortable age Peter is by now. The man is joined yet again by a new line-up, having something of the Tony Iommi approach to band leadership it seems. And man are these recruits able.
Not only does Hal set to with some of the best rhythm work to curse a Vader album in years, he fills the album's sound with a constant thunder while Peter winds out beautifully constructed solos like that on 'I Am Who Feasts Upon Your Soul' and the fantastic leadwork on trudging closer 'Black Velvet and Skulls of Steel'. The whole shit makes Necropolis sound like a warm-up. The master craftsmanship here is in line with Litany and De Profundis.
James Stewart wastes no time in ripping out punishing blasts and driving d-beats to power brick shithouses of songs like the title track and its terrorizing follower, 'The Black Eye'. He fills the huge, huge shoes of Daray (that man's name somewhat besmirched by his involvement in sessioning for Demon Burgers) quite capably, and is well worthy of the number three spot after Daray and the awesome Doc. There were other Vader drummers who I don't think really mattered, but this guy can keep the company well.
Peter meanwhile is still the only death metal vocalist in the biz with that particular obnoxious, thuggish bellow, applying it with panache to this record's dark magic warcry. The savage beating that is the thrashed up 'Only Hell Knows' features some higher register snarling vocals as well.
Mmm highlights. Yes there are. The album's first half is crammed with goodies. Aside from the relentless first two tracks, 'Come and See My Sacrifice' is a moment of particular old school Vader brilliance, the narcissistic and masochistic lyrical roars matching the throbbing riff set and creepy mood perfectly. However, there isn't a weak moment on the record and the second half seals the deal. The passionate, bestial roars at the end of 'Don't Rip the Beast's Heart Out' are definitely a moment of epic, while 'I Had A Dream' has nothing to do with Martin Luther King. It's a really nasty primer for the early '90s Vader style bashing you'll receive from 'Lord of Thorns'.
Bloody brilliant. Simply one of the best bits of headbanging to be found so far this year. It'll be the 30-year anniversary of Vader in three years. And they sound like this. Fuck you.