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Competent but unexciting - 64%

Ilwhyan, February 7th, 2013

Brazilian death/thrash metallers Chaos Synopsis deliver their third album ”Art of Killing” in 2013, a follow up to the 2009 ”Kvlt of Dementia”. Due to being unfamiliar with this band's prior work, as well as the modern Brazilian metal scene at large, this album serves as an effective introduction to me. However, despite being a competent and well-executed work, Chaos Synopsis provides relatively little on this sophomore work that would encourage me to delve further into the band's discography. Still, at its best, "Art of Killing" provides a headbangable, violent thrash experience.

”Art of Killing” recalls Sepultura to a noticeable extent, especially the thrash legends' more coherent and structured, if still vehement and fairly numb-skulled thrash assault of ”Arise”, but also in making use of some groove-oriented stylings. ”Son of Light” is a moderately fast thrash affair with simplistic, homogenous thrash riffs and hardcore-styled half-growl, half-shout vocals. There are noticeable death metal elements, although not to such an extent to make ”Art of Killing” anything like a death metal album, or really death/thrash either. Some of the chaotic nature of strongly Slayer-influenced early death metal can be heard in the riffing style, and there are also harmonical structures, though passing and unemphasised, that recall especially ”Reign in Blood”. The riffs that could be considered death metal are always the simple ones, whereas the ones with clever, subtle complexity are undoubtedly thrash ones. Songs with ”Rostov Ripper” are trickling with these headbangable thrash riffs, accompanied with driving, pummeling drum beats.

The greatest downside of ”Art of Killing” is that a considerable portion of the riffs are uninteresting, moderately fast groove riffs. Although Chaos Synopsis have written fairly good guitar leads and some most excellent thrash riffs, the vapid groove parts would at least require some of that more inspiring guitar work to counterpoint. Fortunately, the album never lapses into genuine groove metal: all the groovy riffs are at least fast-paced. Still, some of them are painfully uninspired, especially in comparison to the best material, which is genuinely great. Riffs such as the opening of ”Bay Harbor Butcher” ought to have been omitted entirely, or the breakdown-esque outro of ”Son of Light”.

At some point, the riffing begins to sound all too familiar. Songs like ”Zodiak” attempt to bring variety to the style with some slower parts that might've been intended to be atmospheric, but the songs' pacing and the album's production allows little in the way of atmosphere to shape. Indeed the clinical production and meticulously timed drumming is also another definitive downside. The drumbeats are fairly monotonous as such, and the overtly dry production certainly doesn't help. The guitar tone is also a fairly bland thrash sound without overmuch distortion, which makes especially the entirely palm-muted riffs sound powerless. The vocals are at least very aggressive, and although the Cavalera-style hardcore growl is anything but pleasant, the vocals sit excellently in the mix (in that they're not overly present nor irritatingly subdued), and the vocalist is highly capable and consistent. The rest of the instrumentation being relatively stale soundwise, the vocals are given enough room in the mix to have the required amount of bottom end for maximal menacing sound, and in parts, given an interesting effect through altering panoration.

”Art of Killing” is a definitely competently crafted album, and much of my chagrin comes from my lack of taste for modern death/thrash with groove elements. The clinical production is also an irritation, especially in the palm-mute heavy riffs played from the low end of the guitars' fretboard. Unlike Sepultura's ”Arise”, for example, ”Art of Killing” is greatly hindered by its inability to evoke atmosphere. The best thing by far is the inspiredly vicious thrash riffing, but those great riffs aren't overly frequent, and their power is hindered by stale production and inanimate drumming. Though very recommended to fans of no-frills thrash in the vein of ”Arise” with certain groovy death metal leanings, this isn't an album I would often return to.