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Season For Assault - 90%

Vim_Fuego, August 6th, 2004

In 2002, 8 Foot Sativa produced New Zealand’s album of the year in ‘Hate Made Me’. It was heavy and brutal, and achieved a level of success never seen before in the New Zealand metal scene. How does a band follow up such an album?

These guys decided the best way to follow it up was by making the album of the year for 2003 as well. ‘Season For Assault’ is heavier, more brutal, and more successful than its predecessor, and it has been out for less than a month.

Forget the drug inspired name, because there is nothing laid back or relaxed here, whatsoever. 8 Foot Sativa deal in musical pain and aggression of a sort not often seen in this day and age. Where ‘Hate Made Me’ occasionally delved into hardcore and even nu-metal, ‘Season For Assault’ skirts the fine line between thrash and death metal, something akin to a heavier version of The Haunted or Strapping Young Lad.

Drummer Sam Sheppard is a revelation, hitting harder, faster and more complex than his predecessor. The double kicks are smooth, and the tempo no longer suffers during complicated passages. Gary Smith’s guitar crunches and churns like many an axe wielder can only dream. Brent Fox’s bass rumbles in the background, showing the odd well-placed flourish. The big improver however, is vocalist Justin Niessen. Seen by some in the past as the weak link in this powerhouse outfit, Niessen has strengthened and developed his voice, and now has a distinct and versatile sound immediately recognisable as his own. Vocally, ‘Hate Made Me’ was effective but lacked depth. Niessen has now created a cleaner voice to run counter to his screech/shout.

It is hard to pick a standout track on the album, such is the overall quality and focus of the songs on offer. There are no “Cocktease”-style fillers this time round. Opener “What’s Lost Is Tomorrow” hints at Napalm Death’s “Breed To Breathe”, particularly in the slower passages. Closer “Gutless”, is an out and out, neck snapping headbanger, bristling anger and violence. Far from being over-enthusiastic hyperbole, there just aren’t any crap tracks on offer. To truly demonstrate how far the band has progressed, check the unlisted re-recording of “Hate Made Me”. The original sounds primitive by comparison.

Young metal fans take note: forget pretenders like Slipknot, Disturbed and Staind. 8 Foot Sativa is the way of the future. 8 Foot Sativa is the real thing.