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Vital Remains, to many, are one of the best death metal acts around; and although the greatness of any of their previous works can be contested in a multitude of arbitrary ways, Icons of Evil has definitely slammed that final "nail into the coffin" of greatness.
The guitars soar with beautiful, neoclassical leads while maintaining perfect rhythmic harmony in the face of the ever pitiless drumming. The leads really highlight the intensity of the album as they interject bits and pieces of melody, while the psychodynamic drums carry the aggression in each song to new heights. The instrumentation on this album is absolutely flawless; the enmity felt here is matched only by the extreme monotony of Glen Benton’s vocals, which is really the only possible downfall of this album.
Benton, being "Glen motha’-fvcking Benton," has his voice very loud in the mix; and although this doesn’t dampen the aggression found on the disk, it certainly doesn’t do anything to help it. If only you could understand what he was saying! He sounds as if he’s just too tired to pronounce those satanic verses anymore. Lyrical delivery aside, his vocal abilities (like always) shine brighter when a higher register death rasp is used in conjunction with his groaning exhales; this differentiation adds a great deal to many of the songs which, otherwise, would have become quickly tiresome.
Aside from that minor discomfort, this is easily the best Vital Remains yet. The songs are fast, ferocious, and demonic in nature. Even better though, is that the band actually has slow moments. Sure, the slowest moments are still (comparing to other bands) blisteringly fast, but the minute changes actually help the entire album’s replayability by showing it is not one huge fast song — and seeing that the average song is about seven minutes, it helps greatly.
Vital Remains took a lot of time to craft this album (four years, in fact), and it shows. Icons of Evil itself could be the theme to the apocalypse, with beers and spears as high as the adversary himself could raise. The bonus Malmsteen cover is also exceedingly well done, which definitely gives this release a solid.