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People Aren't Going to Like This Review - 18%

Deathdoom1992, July 6th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2008, CD, Century Media Records (Digipak, Remastered, Ultimate edition)

Now I know this album is legendary and its follow up, Beyond the Gates is meant to be shit, but I love Beyond the Gates and hate this. I would suggest that that's because ...Gates is a straight up thrash album whereas this tries to straddle two genres, neither particularly successfully. Jeff Becerra sounds unique, actually, but not in a good way. He isn't Mr. Schuldiner, Mr. Souza, Mr. Araya or Mr. Hetfield on vocals, but something completely new. Let me first of all say that this ISN'T DEATH METAL. I don't give a fuck what the song's called, this is dissonant, iconoclastic thrash. This works for them on their sophomore, but not here. This is the purest sound of a band who are recording something, just not anything particular.

But before we discuss the content, we must first consider the then-current musical landscape. The first "extreme" band on the scene, Exodus formed in mid-'79, and ushered in a new wave of extreme. Thrash bands sprung up in droves, with seminal thrashers Metallica and Slayer issuing their debuts in 1983. However, from the mid-80s onward, a new genre of bands arrived, based on this opus and other thrash works, called "death metal" (some say it was named after the song from this very album). Pioneering band Death formed in Florida in '83, but didn't issue their debut until four years later. Morbid Angel were the first pure death metal band to form but they didn't release an album until 1989. The first pure releases didn't even come until the year before that.

However, in the same year Death formed, this group came together in California, with a lineup consisting of vocalist Barry Fisk, guitarists Mike Torrao and Brian Montana, bassist Geoff Andrews, the band rounded out their lineup with drummer Mike Sus. After a few months of jamming it seemed the band was done when first singer Fisk committed suicide then Andrews departed to join Exodus (he would appear on a demo but was out by 1984, replaced by Rob McKillop before the recording sessions for their debut). As it turned out, the band was far from done, with Jeff Becerra coming into the fold and taking over both roles. The band recorded a highly regarded demo Death Metal, before Montana quit and was replaced by Larry LaLonde, later of Primus. They recorded most of their output with this lineup before disbanding in 1987. They eventually reformed twice, and today only Becerra remains from the classic lineup.

To sum everything up, this is a brutal 40 minute assault of noise. The production is so poor that it gives the sound the band were just unleashed in the studio, and this album happened. It's hard to define because of this noisiness, but it does have precious few moments of brightness. A killer solo here and there, and track highlights "Evil Warriors" and "Holy Hell". "Evil Warriors", I must concede, is an awesome tune, but there are none like it on the record unfortunately. I had high hopes for this at the beginning because of the creepy-ass intro but everything is soon ruined, an approach the band would modify for their second record. It doesn't even win back points in the way the demo does: being unique and having that raw feel. This, however, doesn't sound raw, it sounds dissonant and noisy. Of course, I'm not expecting bubblegum pop production here, but even a decent mix would feel way better, and mine is the REMASTER, for Christ's sake.

The musical elements individually, well. The guitars are the most defined thing here, maybe this was the intention but even then they still aren't as sharp as they could be. Riffs are strong mostly though, and the bass is competently played, but fuzzy in the mix to the point of a low buzz across a song. At least in Entombed it's a low buzz with the feel of a bass. The drumming is energetic, but poor, and in my opinion Sus was always holding the band back in terms of potential. Vocals really are in a league of their own here, delivered in a register never previously discovered or seen since, somewhere between standard thrash vocalizations and a growl, totally indecipherable (as was the intention). The best way I can sum them up is as if a thrash singer has performed to the point that their cords are shredded, and then stepped into a vocal booth and recorded for this album. Two simple ways to improve musically: get a better mix (although they probably couldn't afford a good one in 1985), and bring in a decent session guy on drums.

Overall, I'd have been satisfied of progress if this was a demo, but as a full-length it doesn't cut it. I have a hypothesis that people find this legendary because it was the first full album or EP release that the guys who'd earnestly been bridging the gap between death and thrash for a while now. Maybe that's the overall reason for these guys' everlasting popularity in the extreme scene. Regarding this struggle-to-listen-to pile of shit I have nothing else to say.