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A Tragic Return - 61%

Crank_It_Up_To_666, February 7th, 2008

There are few names in underground death/grind that can deservedly be spoken with such reverence as the legendary Terrorizer. Indisputably, ‘World Downfall’ remains one of the greatest examples of gut-wrenchingly heavy, crust-coated, enraged extremity. And with an album like that in their repertoire, it’s hardly surprising that, 17 years on from this netherworld classic, Terrorizer’s reformation would have metalheads all over salivating at the thought of new material from these gods of grind.

A tragic shame then, that what they eventually received was way short of the benchmark that Terrorizer had set for themselves in 1989.

What the listener finds contained herein is by no means describable as a bad album; far from it, as what we have is a competent 11 slices of deathly blasting that will satisfy appetites quickly and efficiently.
But right there we see the key problem with ‘Darker Days Ahead’ – Dying Fetus make competent death metal albums. Severe Torture make competent death metal albums. Hypocrisy make competent death metal albums. Terrorizer do not – they made a true classic, and when placing ‘World Downfall’ alongside ‘Darker Days Ahead’, it must unfortunately be sad that the 17 year wait yielded only a serious disappointment.

Admittedly, it is unfair to use an artist’s prior work as the yardstick against which all future endeavours are measured. And inarguably, Terrorizer’s latest is not an album devoid of merit: opener ‘Crematorium’ is a barrage of ferocious, double bass and blasting courtesy of Commando Pete Sandoval, who undoubtedly puts on a sterling performance throughout, backed by fellow original member Jesse Pintado fantastically crusty, raging guitar.
This is pretty much par for the course throughout – the band have not slowed through the years and the likes of ‘Fallout’ and ‘Blind Army’ are fantastic, thrashing noise whirlwinds that will set your head ‘a bangin.’ Hell, even the much-derided re-recording of ‘Dead Shall Rise’ puts up a fair old fight against its legendary, black-hearted father. Terrorizer even extend beyond grind on the highly imaginative outro ‘Ghost Train’, a genuinely menacing musical depiction of its title, complete with bizarrely fitting lead piano work.

Something, however, remains missing.

Perhaps this feeling of dissatisfaction is due in part to the fact that this isn’t the Terrorizer many of us cherish. Only Sandoval and Pintado remain of the ‘World Downfall’ line-up, with Dave Vincent replaced on bass by Tony Norman, who gives a (once again) competent performance but very little to shout about – especially since his bass is just a bit too low in the mix. A second possible reason is that, quite simply, this is not the most imaginative kind of grind – the riffs can be as crusty as you like but that will never properly disguise when they start sounding like each other again and again, a flaw this album displays just a few times too often. Another reason of course is the selection of Anthony Rezhawk as lead vocalist in place of Oscar Garcia.

Throughout the record’s run, it is almost impossible to shake off the nagging notion that Rezhawk should have stopped short after providing the (admittedly superb) album art; his is a voice distressingly akin to Garcia’s, minus all the raw grit and aggression. Quite literally, he seems to be speaking his lyrics on occasion and this, coupled with the bone dry drum sound, severely dampens any aggressive atmosphere the record might establish.

That, in short, is it. Perhaps the premier death grind band in the entire world, producing an album that saw Jesse Pintado end his musical career on not even so much as a low note – simply a mediocre one. It is truly tragic that this god of grind’s final legacy is one that will be a forgotten blast beat on the breeze long before ‘World Downfall’ ever even begins to fade from the memory of underground metalheads.

R.I.P. Jesse Pintado, ye shall be much missed.