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Straight ahead, full speed, top quality - 85%

Samtropy, August 10th, 2020
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, Hells Headbangers Records

Brutal. Furious. Tight. Massive. These are adjectives for this album. What we have here is straight-ahead Death Metal with an emphasis on frantic crushing, a demonstrable raw energy, and clear, massive, thick production. The songs are mostly whiplash speed with enough slower moments to balance the experience. There doesn’t seem to be much here particularly challenging or distinctive, but they do it with such sincerity and confidence that it’s impossible not to enjoy on repeated listens. Faithxtractor does not care what you may have heard a band do before. They intend to do it better, and sound better doing it.

Faithxtractor is a 3-piece consisting of Ash Thomas on drums, vocals, and production (you can tell this was recorded and mixed by someone who seriously loves drums), bassist Zdenka Prado, and guitarist Cody Knarr. This is one of the apparently less renowned projects of Ash Thomas, multi-instrumentalist stalwart of the Ohio scene. I found this disc the Hell’s Headbanger’s bargain bin (which I've been using as retail therapy during COVID-19), where it’s been one of the standout finds -- right up there with other stellar straight-ahead Death Metal releases from Thomas’ other band Shed The Skin.

There is nothing showy here in terms of composition or musicianship, although everyone obviously knows their way around the instrument and can play fast as fuck while still sounding like a human who is emotionally invested in what they’re doing. It’s all about the sound and the intensity of the performance. The drums stand out with a huge warm sound, not too clicky, mixing up blast beats with punk/thrash galloping and fills that have less to do with phrasing and more to do with bestowing swift justice upon those unworthy of mercy. Knarr’s rhythm guitars have a nasty buzzsaw edge as they deliver relentless tremolo-picked riffs interspersed with guttural snarly mid-tempo riffs, not unlike Hate Eternal, with just enough girth and balance to keep everything moving forward. The bass has a particularly distinctive up-front tone as Zdenka Prado’s pounding presence provides the thick elastic viscera of the album. Thomas’ vocals inhabit a nice malevolent distance as they deliver standard-issue death metal love poems to damnation, hatred, and death. Occasional guitar solos all completely shred, often bringing varied texture (if not always real melodic ideas) to the mix of this otherwise single-minded predator of an album. Ambience is limited to the slightly cavernous vocal treatment, but there is very little atmosphere of any kind. This band is right there inside your damn earhole and you better like it. One would almost call this album claustrophobic if the sonic space in which it confines you weren’t so glorious.

Picking standout tracks is pointless since the focus here is really the album itself, with each song using more or less the same basic vocabulary to move things along in service of the whole album-long experience. And that experience isn’t about songs, or really even about riffs or ideas. It has just enough of each to meet the minimum requirements to keep a decent death metal album interesting for the duration. What makes this more than decent and interesting is how successfully it captures an unpretentious band playing with absolute intensity and sounding completely fucking beautiful without stopping for 39 minutes.