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Oh God, why? - 43%

Gas_Snake, August 3rd, 2020

When discussing this album's existence, a historical point is often brought up. The gist of the story is as follows: Death frontman Chuck Schuldiner formed the band Control Denied in 1996, then attempted to record some material with his new band. However, he was pressured by the label to record another album under the Death moniker before being allowed to do this, and so he put most of said material on the Death album "The Sound Of Perseverance", altering it slightly to avoid fan backlash. This may seem like a restatement of the obvious, but when listening to the music, these historical circumstances make a lot of sense - but not in a good way.

Contrary to what is often said about this album, it does not constitute any sudden stylistic shift towards power/prog metal. Musically, this can be described as "The Sound Of Perseverance, Part II", as most of the core elements of the sound here are effectively copypasted from that album with minimal alterations. The guitar tone is identical. The lineup, minus the vocalist, is identical. The underlying thrash/melodeath riffage is identical. The ear-grating solos are identical. And most importantly, Chuck still has the entire songwriting process all to himself, which means that the rampant structural woes are all faithfully preserved and ready to sour your listening experience - the horrid song structures, the slavish repetition, even the disjointed vocal lines. The change of vocal style has done nothing to change his songwriting for the better.

But wait, the resemblances actually go a bit further than that. Contrast "Spirit Crusher" from TSOP and "Breaking The Broken" from this album. Both songs follow a very similar structure, both rely on a thick bass line, both have a similar set of riffs, and the latter even recycles a lyrical passage from the former: "You speak in killing words, the kind that crush and kill". This leads me to believe that the songwriting for this album was utterly lazy.

And that notion is reinforced further, as the different ideas here are simply inferior versions of the ones on TSOP. Stylistically, they are quite similar, but they don't have that same level of conviction and memorability as on Chuck's previous effort. This doesn't have any "Voice Of The Soul" or "Flesh And The Power That It Holds" to hit you in the feels or riff you into oblivion. The closest it ever gets to that level of emotion is the opener "Consumed", which is the most power metal sounding of the bunch and also features the most passionate vocal performance courtesy of Tim Aymar.

Speaking of Tim Aymar, his vocals here are one of the most disappointing things about this album. He actually has a very respectable track record to his name, but he doesn't show it here. His mid range sounds like a neutered Jon Oliva (before he turned his attention to Broadway musicals and Christmas rock); he tries to go for a similarly gritty vocal style, but comes off as sounding weak and unable to properly convey the emotions in the lyrics. However, he also frequently overdrives his voice (like on "Expect The Unexpected"), and in doing so, turns into a hilariously shitty screamer. Imagine a slightly cleaner version of Chuck Schuldiner's vocals on TSOP, but without any sort of genuine aggression or feeling - he sounds like he's going through the motions. "Consumed" actually features a rather good vocal performance out of him, but the other tracks can't match it. "Your faithful servants, they bow to you" - he shrieks during "Breaking The Broken", but it's hard to imagine anyone bowing to him with a voice like this. Rob Halford or David Wayne, he is not.

While I've already established that this album is a near carbon copy of TSOP with different vocals, it does actually do some other things differently. For one, Richard Christy's drumming is much more subdued: instead of doing nothing but technical showboating, he now actually has the sense to go with the flow of the song. Furthermore, the guitars sometimes attempt to channel that Symbolic-like atmosphere with an echo/delay effect on the lead guitars. Unfortunately, nothing here is anywhere close to the level of songwriting found on that album.

While many people point to The Sound Of Perseverance as Chuck Schuldiner's nadir, I believe this release to be more deserving of that title. While his 1998 effort was humongously flawed, it still showed genuine conviction, numerous memorable riffs and melodies, and a desire to kick ass and take names. This album, however, feels like the man simply stopped trying. The only thing it does better than TSOP is not having a horrid Painkiller cover to end on. It does not show him progressing in any way. Here, he did not accentuate his strengths, nor did he learn from his weaknesses - he just went through the motions. As disappointment sets in, the only question that comes to mind is: why?

Oh God, why?