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Impressive mongrel thrash - 79%

OlympicSharpshooter, April 14th, 2005

There's a scene in the movie "Sideways" where the main character, a wine connoisseur, is explaining to a friend how to properly taste a glass of wine. After a long examination he tastes the wine and begins rattling off all of the things it tastes like including cheese, broccoli, a farmer's market's worth of different fruits, and an assortment of other increasingly bizarre flavours. Sacrifice's final album, Apocalypse Inside is a lot like that. I hear Death Angel, Megadeth, Metallica, Heathen, and Slayer here. I also hear Carcass, KoRn, In Flames, Pantera, Entombed, and Godsmack. Don't confuse me for a minute, this is solid and intense as all get-out from start to finish but Sacrifice demonstrates a remarkable range and mastery of forms both newly forming and unshakeably established. Its as if all of these sounds have all been funnelled through Sacrifice's big thrashy sieve leaving only big squishy chunks of the very essence of their sounds.

There are really only three tried and true through and through thrash songs on this thing, and even these demonstrate some new blood. "Incarcerated" packs some beautiful dreamy psych riffage bookending an intense trad-thrash blaze-out that starts out somewhat weak but builds up to excellence by its end, and "Apocalypse Inside" reels you in with its catchy standard speed riffery before sucker punching you with a killer melodic death chorus riff. In fact only "Freedom Slaves" manages to contribute absolute nothing outside of the realms of standard thrash, and it just kicks ass.

Now, you may have noticed that I said 'melodic death riff' in that last paragraph. Well, that's where this record gets really interesting. Apocalypse Inside was released in the year o' our Dark Lord 1993, which is the same year Carcass owned the world and began the genre proper with their seminal masterwork Heartwork. Thus, while Sacrifice cannot quite get full marks for laying the foundations, they do get the very special title of 'clever monkeys'. See, this record actually has as much melodic death as it does thrash and it is melodic death of the Carcassian 'heavier-than-Gothenburg-can-imagine' variety although it isn't quite as intense as the shit on Heartwork.

Furthermore vocalist Rob Urbinati has perfected the type of scratchy caw that melo-death is known for. He even injects a few clean vocals here and there, such as the Godsmack-ish chanting in "Ruins of the Old". The vocals have a surprisingly hardcore/metalcore flavour at times, but tastefully consistent (i.e. no angst breaks here). If you want to hear this violent screaming at its best, skip directly to the complete ownage calling itself "The Lost". If Sully Erna (Godsmack), Jeff Walker (Carcass), and Tom Araya (duh) mated this might be the result.

I'm actually a little surprised that my fellow reviewers haven't commented on this (but I must thank Abominatrix for pointing out the jaw-dropping drumming!), because kids, the melo-death is staring you right in the face half the time. "Flesh", "Ruins of the Old", "Beneath What You See", "Salvation", "The Lost"... these songs are a fascinating dance of thrash, groove-thrash, melo-death, and even thrashified nu-metal.

"Beneath What You See" is an example of the latter, basically a nu-metal structure and lyric sent through the Sacrifice-sieve and coming out a swinging Death Angel-like bit of funk-thrash experimentation. Tons of open architecture, the first verse or two featuring Urbinati in isolation singing cleanly with a definite eye toward the coming StoRm. Thankfully it is handled passably and they later begin filling in the gaps with some mathematically tight bridging riffs that pad out the space between that circular main mosh riff.

My personal favourite song on here is "Salvation", which charges out of the gates with a Megadeth-style swinging thrash riff (think "Polaris") before opening things up a bit with some Death Angel (we're referring to Act III-era) drumming before further extending the Bay Area get-together with some Heathen licks in the chorus... what follows is pure '93 Sacrifice, melodic death riff-stravaganza, focused mid-tempo power giving way to some subtle riff changes in the middle en route to a fucking amazing solo. Joe Rico is a superb player (see also the drool-inducing lead on "Ruins of the Old" THE BEST SOLO OF 1993) and he has got plenty of room to shine. Back to the point, "Salvation" proceeds to return to its intro riffery and as it did the first around rules the school.

So, what keeps this record from a 90? I mean, so far I've been pretty liberal with my praise. Well, it really comes down to one big problem. Yeah, there's a bit of fat, we could've maybe done without, say, "Flesh" but none of the songs are actually bad. No, the problem is the 'borrowed riff phenomena'. Other than perhaps "The Lost", every song has at least one riff that sounds like a riff I've heard before. It being 1993 I'm sure new thrash riffs weren't exactly growing on trees, but even so the theft can really interfere with my enjoyment of these songs. "Flesh" is the main culprit here, because it opens and is built upon Metallica's "For Whom the Bell Tolls" riff, and despite a slight groove feel and some serious melo-death riffage elsewhere pretty much fails to overcome the considerable anchor it's plagiarized riff set around it's neck. That damned sieve can also hurt it appears.

Basically, this is one hell of a record and I got the bastard for $0.99 at Metal Blade so if that sale is still on and this is still available, well, run (don't walk!) over there and pick it up. If you have any interest in well-produced, professional thrash buy this. If you love melodic death metal in its purest (read: Heartwork-era Carcass) form, then BUY THIS NOW. It may not have influenced At the Gates or Arch Enemy, but it has got characteristics in common with them without BEING them. If you dig mallcore and nu-metal, maybe this thing can get you into metal that doesn't blow. I can even imagine a black metalhead getting something out of this. Highly, highly recommended for Joe Rico's brilliant solos, Michael Rosenthal's stupendous drumming (he's at least as good as Lombardo), and Urbinati's vox and riffs.

Stand-Outs: "Salvation", "The Lost", "Ruins of the Old"