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After a few years of extensive touring, Vital Remains have returned with the follow-up to "Dechristianize", and it could indeed be considered "Dechristianize 2". The elements are all pretty much the same: overused double-tracked vocals, overlong tracks, relentless blastbeats and neverending clicky double bass drum salvoes, and as a counterweight large portions of melodic lead guitar material and neoclassical solos. And again, a production that is brutal in its clarity, yet utterly sterile (though at least the snare isn't so tinny this time).
It really is a shame, because there's a lot of talent on display here. I'm essentially talking about Dave Suzuki, who handles both drumming and lead guitar duties, and is a remarkable performer (and has played both instruments live). He knows just how to pour beautiful streams of notes out of his guitar in the midst of almost Maiden-esque harmonies - but we heard it all four years ago. As for Tony Lazaro, who's responsible for all the songwriting: he needs some serious lessons in variety. Not within a single song; with most of the songs clocking in at 7-8 minutes, there's time for plenty of different sections. But the songs just don't sound very different from one another, unfortunately. The same riffs surface again and again, and we've heard them all somewhere else already. Truly, I don't know how musicians can remember which bits belong to which song on stage when they're all so similar.
And once again we have a dominant Glen Benton, often in duplicate. I have always found him one of the most boring death metal vocalists, being both devoid of variety and utterly bland, no matter how high and overpowering he might be in the mix. But this ties in with the rest of the music's components: big and fat, but lifeless and uninteresting. I'll give them one thing: this time around, they use the excessive song durations to put a bit more different material in each one, rather than essentially playing each song twice as they did on "Dechristianize". But as I said, that doesn't change much in the final reckoning.
Time and again one can witness how artists find a formula, then stick to it - and that's the worst thing that can happen. I've given this album 50% because there's a lot of ability here, but if I were being a bit more dogmatic and hardcore about it, I could imagine giving it much less, as it's pretty much a pre-fabricated product. "Underground"? My arse! This is high-polish stuff, with not a trace of underground roughness to it. "Dawn of the Apocalypse" sounded a lot more authentic. As for the lyrics/image/artwork, it's naturally the same unbelievably tired anti-Christian and Satanic clichés. Come on, does the world really need yet more of this? How about showing a bit of imagination?