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Ball'eads. - 30%

Diamhea, August 14th, 2014

In a more forgiving world, one could conceivably give Re-Animator a free pass concerning their lackadaisical debut Condemned to Eternity. This becomes more plausible an abstraction once the inanity of the remainder of this English quintet's output is taken into account. In short, the debut can at the very least enjoy the lukewarm, meager luminescence basked upon it courtesy of discursive wastes of time and effort like Laughing and especially That Was Then... This Is Now. For a band whose sound is so critically hinged on devil-may-care jocularity and a collective middle-finger to all forms of convention, the inanity of this whole experience becomes even more difficult to swallow.

For all of their transgressions, what cannot be argued is the fact that Re-Animator was in no way responsible for the initial state of the tepid U.K. scene they were birthed into. Still, being late to the party grants the benefit of observance along with the privilege of watching other bands try and fail, ideally applying these learned dichotomies to your own blueprints going forward. Featuring nearly all of the abhorrent elements shared by petulant retro-thrash acts like Municipal Waste a full fifteen years before said forced revisionism was commonplace, That Was Then... This Is Now serves as the poster child of how to improperly integrate nearly every then-modern trapping and suffer all the greater for it in the end. The preclusion of a clear goal or purpose is searingly evident here, if only through a dearth of tonal consistency and lack of focus. Re-Animator finds themselves stumbling into the riff-heavy potentiation of a slightly less clinical Darkness Descends one minute on "D.U.A.F," the next gracelessly banging out what sounds like a lampooning of Sublime's 40oz. to Freedom.

Such comparisons are surreal, sure, but I honestly don't know what much of this is supposed to even be. A more expected disappointment is Robinson's forceless attempt at emulating Hetfield's whiskey-soaked Metallica crooning. Vocally, he folds right away and never redeems himself at any juncture during That Was Then... This Is Now's fifty-minute runtime. His primary inflection lacks Ingleson's sandpaper grit, instead replacing it with a simpering whine and lack of control in the upper register when he tries to emote. Even more pathetic are the layered gang "shouts" during the chorus of "Last Laugh," which sound as if the band propped some drunk they found on the sidewalk outside of the studio in front of a microphone and demanded he bark single-syllable words. The opposite is true during the deep, resonating chorus of "Kick Back," solidifying the lack of cohesion and consistency during the entire production process.

Re-Animator very nearly embodies a bizarro evil twin of Blind Illusion here, citing Newton's third law of physics. That Was Then... This Is Now is high-energy music that features most of the basic thrash architecture, but it only accomplishes its stylistic goals on the most ephemeral of levels. Re-Animator certainly took the path less-taken by circumventing the grunge template that felled many a thrash act, but to be honest this (whatever it is) is infinitely worse than any I Hear Black or Set the World on Fire. The final slap to the face is the putrid cover of Thin Lizzy's "Cold Sweat," a song that has been covered into oblivion done with absolutely no extra thought put into the arrangements. How sad is it that this is somehow one of the highlights?

I'm really lost here, folks. I feel like I was unnecessarily harsh on Condemned to Eternity, which at least had some tunes that have stood the test of time like "Low Life" and "Shock Treatment." If it wasn't for tracks like those, I wouldn't even bother telling you that Re-Animator has recently reformed after over twenty years in the shadows. As long as these guys still have the chops, they can probably piece together a passable set worthy of an opening slot at next year's Keep it True or something. Just pray they don't play anything from That Was Then... This Is Now.