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Ushering in Digital Armageddon - 82%

blarg223, February 16th, 2016

Let’s face it: the end of the world is nigh. C’mon, natural disasters are levelling third world countries every day, religious extremists are beheading people in the streets, and global governments are being assembled to oppress and control the masses through worldwide totalitarian regimes. I know this, you know this, and classic Floridian death metal band Brutality has certainly come to terms with it, enough to write their latest album “Sea of Ignorance” about the ills the world is facing on a daily basis.

For those unfamiliar with Brutality, these guys are one of the oldest Florida death metal bands still around. They were formed in 1987, released their debut and masterpiece “Screams of Anguish” six years later, and released two more full lengths in ’94 and ’96. Then they broke up and reformed a couple dozen times between now and then, and finally, 20 years after their last full length album, graced us with the philosophical slice of melody-infused old school death metal that is “Sea of Ignorance.” The album features only remaining original member Jeff Acres on bass and vocals, as well as Brutality veterans Jay Fernandez and Scott Reigel on guitar and vocals respectively. I feel as though that shorts Jay and Scott a little bit, so let me also add that when I say veterans, I mean for well over 20 years. Both of these guys played on “Screams of Anguish” the year I was fucking born. Drums are handled by Ruston Grosse who has quite the pedigree himself, having played for Rumplestiltskin Grinder, as well as live for Master and Insatanity.

This album is more than just an album; it’s a bone-weary declaration of despair and ultimate resignation to the hopeless fate of humanity, certainly not without a note of bitterness and disdain. As I noted previously, the lyrics deal mostly with all the modern plagues of society and mankind today. Human extinction, warfare, suicide, and other dark subjects litter the album. The art depicts what I assume is left of the world after man’s demise; smokestacks churning out foul smog the blots out the sun, a field of cross-marked graves, and our precious source of knowledge, televisions, piled up in a worthless heap, still glowing, but ultimately useless now. To be frank, I am not a fan of the style of the cover art. I like the idea, but digital art is not for me. It looks a little too modern for my taste.

The music itself sounds incredible. The guitars have the right amount of crunch, and lay on top of each other perfectly. So many times, one guitar keeps a steady rhythm underneath everything, generally matched by the kick drums, and another plays an intricate melodic riff over the top to give the song more spice. Without one or the other, the sound would fall flat. The vocals are well-mixed and easy to understand, and the bass pops up on occasion to add another dimension most bands in this style lack. The songs are structured like most classic death metal, centering on a specific riff or idea that is twisted into multiple shapes throughout the songs various turns. I do take a bit of an issue with the pacing of the album as a whole, however, and I will discuss that shortly.

The riffs comprise mostly of tremolo picked, vorpal sharp lines that slice the listener to the marrow with easy, coupled with grooving power chord exchanges to bury you under a mountain of rock-solid brutality. The drums, upon first listen are very straight forward; lots of double bass to compliment the flurries of picked guitar notes and peppered with blasts occasionally, though this certainly is no blastathon. However, when one sits and listens more closely, it becomes exceedingly apparent what a master of his craft Ruston is. The cymbal work here is frighteningly intricate, even through the faster parts of the songs. Jazzy little cymbal fills certainly add an interesting dimension to an otherwise very straightforward album, for while this album certainly does like to shift pace a lot, it’s definitely not the most complex album this year, or probably even this week. But hey, the focus here is not complexity; the focal point instead is masterful songwriting and epic melodies fused with massive riffs, and at that, Brutality excel.

The only real complaint I have about this album will probably be a predictable point of contention: the Bathory cover. I don’t care for it. However, I more or less consider my own opinion invalid for two reasons: first, I don’t really give a shit about Bathory. Never have, unlikely if I ever do. This is the second “Bathory song” I’ve ever heard, and I really prefer to keep it that way. I am not a fan of Quorthon or the style of music he played, whether Viking metal or black metal. Second, clean vocals in death metal are my number one pet peeve. I cannot listen to anything that mixes death growls and cleans, no matter how masterfully either is executed. For this reason, I’ve also never listened to Opeth, and avoid most prog at all costs. So, from personal opinion, those points certainly ruin the song for me. Speaking more objectively, I do think the cover was extremely well executed, though I do still have a couple minor criticisms. I do think it is a bit long; an over 11 minute epic in the midst of mostly sub 4 minute tracks is a bit excessive. Also, I do feel as though it interrupts the album’s pacing a great deal. I feel it would have melded with the flow of the album about two tracks earlier. The song itself feels like a mighty transition, like it is a mystic bridge into the foggy unknown, preparing the audience for the second half of the album. With only one song following it, I feel as though the metaphorical bridge is a bit of a letdown, especially in the midst of such an otherwise strong album. As I stated, it could have gone about two songs earlier or have been left out completely without any arguments from me.

Is Sea of Ignorance going to displace Screams of Anguish as my favorite Brutality album? Fuck no. I don’t think anything ever could, that album is a goddamn masterpiece. Is Sea of Ignorance a powerful and worthy addition to a legendary band’s catalog, and a glorious return? Damn right it is. Any fan of classic death metal and especially the Florida scene would be highly remiss if they skipped this extremely fun listening experience. This album is an epic exercise in OSDM revival magic and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it. 8/10