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Mostly enjoying the infection - 83%

Gutterscream, August 30th, 2017
Written based on this version: 1994, Cassette, Psychoslaughter Records

“…come forth Babylon…”

Cleveland, Ohio’s Blessed Sickness is a death metal oddity more or less, with a scope that at the least is straightforward, yet often unconventional and at the most treads the vicinity of avant-garde, making for a division of content that’s smartly spread out rather evenly across these nine tracks.

Atmospherically doomed and oppressive is Massacre the Holy’s overall leaden blanket, which as far as I can tell doubles as a suit of armor that seems to limit or just plain deflect the possible number of blast beat barrages regularly associated with albums doped up on this style of ruckus and are only unleashed in the track minority. In addition to generating the album’s lovely ambiance, doom as a style proves to be nearly as fully-breasted a partner as its majority death metal; it’s a haunting, stretched-on-the-rack sort of repression utilizing to its advantage the tape’s rather hollow, under-the-surface production values.

Lurking in the second hand is avant-garde-ism, of course a widely-ranged term that here can’t start to fill the Celtic Frost quota of classical choirs and instrumentation, nor is it the kind of alterna-mood melodrama staked in the gorehound debut of state-mates Necrophagia. Nah, we’re confronted instead with something that, like a remote mob-owned warehouse, is dead serious, quite seamless and even casual within its natural environment, and is pretty left of center field without playing the game outside their focus.

For instance, drearily-sculpted eight-minute a-side ender “Un-Reality” is nearly as eccentric as it is wristwatch extensive as it trudges through the cobwebs of an early brushing of downtrodden acoustics, slithers a wide doom trail chiseled mainly from structurally-incohesive song matter, and for all that can be told literally babbles to itself in normal human-toned gibberish as if under the hypnosis of its methodical solo bass pattern. Eventually a false ending primes the door to another dingy dungeon crawl, extending the track an additional wordless minute or so. And it all seems natural.

Vocalist Vince Smithhisler exhales a three-ply death vapor, first and foremost a growl excavated from the bowels of some dark, echo-filled canyon, followed swiftly by a comparably lesser-event thrash-growl, and then finally unpeels a few lower-end, small-shroud black metal screeches that usually peel out all by their lonesome. And to supplement an already touched-on subject, bassist Dave Phillips plucks down-tuned and loose like an ill-fastened canopy, making his contributions hard to miss in spite of the echo-y, sub-par mix.

Attempting to deepen the album’s darkness are a few otherworldly and horror flick-narrated intros, basically par for the course for albums of this nature, but aside from this and some hard to avoid conventionality, Massacre the Holy harbors an easy affinity for doom (and just to be fair should technically be shopped as death/doom) and is an above-par offering from an act that seems unafraid to shy away from explicit blast beats and damns conventional length and content so they can follow whatever intrinsic journey is urging them on at the moment.

Unfortunately, there was no recovery from this particular not-so-blessed sickness, which put 'em in the ground, well, until their ’08 re-surrect-union.

Fun Fact 8khsdo0: a guy I once knew heard this playing, glanced at the title on the j-card and instantly rechristened it Massacre the Hokey.