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Vital Remains apparently began as a pretty normal death metal band, releasing a bunch of albums that ten people have heard, before taking the scene by storm through pre-empting Dethklok in becoming the world's first commercially successful death metal parody band on the surprisingly tolerable 'Dechristianize'. Of course, like most gimmicks, the members were firmly convinced they could recreate the success by making another album just as overwrought and ridiculous as 'Dechristianize', and the result is 'Icons Of Evil', a turgid, unlistenable record that I've managed my way completely through exactly once on a car ride where it was the only CD available. After one play we immediately switched to looking for whatever radio stations were available. I believe we settled on a station that was playing Red Nichols And His Five Pennies, a paleolithic jazz group which was undoubtedly more interesting than Vital Remains ever will be.
I think the metal scene had room for one hour-long album of absurd anti-Christian death metal composed of more harmonizing leads than actual riffs, and Vital Remains fucked up by trying to do it again, only even longer, harder, and more throbbing than before. Really, this is point-by-point identical to 'Dechristianize' in all the superficial ways: ridiculous guitar theatrics, overlong, ridiculous songs, and Glen Benton lazily barking his way through the tracks with nothing in the way of variation or nuance. What this doesn't have, however, is the immediate memorability and fun of 'Dechristianize'. Let's face it, the first time you hear 'Dechristianize' is memorable simply because it's probably the most absurd death metal record you've ever heard at the time. But now we know the playbook, and 'Icons Of Evil' did nothing in the intervening four years to step up the band's collective game.
Every track on 'Icons Of Evil' is interminably long and repetitive, with long stretches of blast beats and furious tremolo riffing being broken up by equally long passages of noodling harmonized leads, which generally leads into yet more blasting and tremolo riffing. I'm not necessarily insisting that Vital Remains should do anything BUT this, but the laziness in the songwriting is pretty obvious: the individual riffs, not particularly special in and of themselves, are pretty short and repeated over and over again, with simple string bounces being used to provide the illusion of variation. In reality, Vital Remains has three riffs: the churning NYDM tremolo riff, the Behemoth ripoff riff, and the crazed arpeggiated lead, and they use every single one of them on every single track. The melodic sense of the record is so industrialized that it feels like every song is based off the exact same handful of notes, leaving no track with any sort of personality. All imagination is sucked dry by the machine-press songwriting, totally overmixed production, and absolute lack of dynamics apart from 'go fast, then go faster'.
Yeah, this really sucks but I don't really understand how anyone would expect something different. Vital Remains is basically a joke band and has been for nearly a decade now, so if you really need an album like this pick up 'Dechristianize' and leave this in the bargain bin it was made for.