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Shawn of the Dead Twisted Riffs - 93%

bayern, January 13th, 2018

This outfit is the product of the death metal guru Shawn Whitaker (also Insidious Decrepancy, Extremely Rotten, Uncleansed, Grotesque Formation, etc.). In fact, this is his very first creation which he spawned in the mid-90’s intent on joining the spreading dazzling brutality movement and provide a healthy competition to Cryptopsy, Suffocation, Defiled, etc. That didn’t quite happen with the debut, though, which was a primal slab of death metal brutality not containing too many intricate motifs to make it a recommended listen for fans of the aforementioned acts.

The man went back to the underground afterwards for the release of a couple of demos before re-emerging with the sophomore which saw him having made a big step forward, both production and music-wise, although a place on the very front echelon of his chosen field continued to be elusive…

It had to be the third instalment, the one reviewed here, that catapulted the man straight to the top although it took him whole five years to unleash it upon the world. It was well worth the wait, mind you, as this opus is one of the finest technical death metal showdowns to ever come out of The States Whitaker being the sole musician save for a very loyal assistant, the drum machine. The latter may be a minor annoyance here and there with its artificial robotic bash, but Whitaker’s superb performance on the other instruments largely compensates for the lack of an actual drummer. The album starts with the unrestrained “riffmill” that is the title-track, a polished piece of intricate brutality resembling mid-period Deeds of Flesh quite a bit, the frequent slower, choppy breakdowns providing the requisite element of surprise. “Beetlejuice Bukkake” is even more diverse with the tempo shifts following every few seconds Whitaker not relying so much on speedy outbreaks here, even adhering to a couple of slamming strokes.

“Cumstained Murderweapon” is an acrobatic shredder ala Necrophagist, the first actual sign that this offering may indeed turn into something special, and the man doesn’t disappoint with an exquisite array of puzzling, awe-inspiring configurations. “Ice-Pick Vasectomy” follows a very similar pattern serving an even bigger riff-density with the dizzying pace shifts Whitaker trying to sound relevant behind the mike, his guttural muffled semi-shouts doing the trick whenever they’re not deafened by the expert fretwork. More vertigo-like guitar pyrotechnics on “Skill-Sawdomy”, a hyper-active rifforama with maddening rhythmic equations which are served in a slightly more decipherable way on “Lawnmower Lobotomy”, and are almost completely missing from “U-Haul Full of Dead Bodies”, an elegiac doomy brooder ala Bolt Thrower, a somewhat surprising turn of events, but a welcome respite after the exhausting “skirmishes” savoured previously. “Inoculated Life” is... yes, a Gorguts cover taken from the Canadians' debut, faithfully performed without any adventurous decisions, the proceedings finalized by a serene balladic outro.

This effort can easily be considered Whitaker’s creative pinnacle, a smattering display of guitar wizardry which avoids the self-indulgent traps and strives for actually penning down memorable pieces rather than merging everything into one overwhelming melee. Within less than half an hour the man tells the story of the dazzling brutality movement in its entirety without perennially repeating cycles from it, and without necessarily sounding very close to any of the movement’s other representatives. He almost repeated that feat on the next instalment, and if it wasn’t for the more regularly applied slamming “pauses” on that one it would have been another near-masterpiece.

This was also the last showpiece as Viral Load as Whitaker started laying each of his projects to rest as a result of his increasing bonds with Christianity. He still performs under his own name, though, his set mostly comprising songs from the Viral Load and the Insidious Decrepancy repertoire, the man finding it hard to sever all his ties with the music that made him a hero, and not only for the fans of twisted deathy, elaborate cannonades.

Robot Brutality - 75%

Count Blargaroth, December 10th, 2013

This album is not for those who have a hate for programmed drums. Turn back now if that description fits you. The first thing that is really noticeable about this cd is the extremely robotic drums, especially the ear drum piercing snare blasts. People who have listened to Whittaker's material for Insidious Decrepancy probably are used to the drum programming. That being said, the production is much dryer than on his Insidious Decrepancy releases. I think the lack of bass really deters from making this a much better sounding album. The production is lacking compared to previous releases.

This album is heavy. Extremely heavy. Whittaker has the ability to make any riff into brutal slamming gold. Riffage is always extremely chunky, technical, and tighter than a latex clad fat man. I'd dare to say that Whittaker's family consists of serial killers that had sexual encounters with metronomes. His vocals only add to the brutal robotic orgy that is this album. He mostly switches between a medium range growl to an extremely low guttural belch, with an occasional higher pitched screech. The most notable just brutal as possible songs would be, "U-haul Full Of Dead Bodies," and "Cumstained Murderweapon." I would strongly recommend checking out those two songs, because without those songs that this album would be boring.

Parts of this album are just too monotonous! It's a fairly short album and I think he should have capitalized on this, but instead, there are a few riffs that just seem to be copy and pasted. Calling them motifs would be putting it nicely, but it just doesn't deserve that. One thing that I was really excited to hear was the cover of, "Inoculated Life," originally by Gorguts. I am a huge Gorguts fan, so I had very high expectations. It is honestly just a bland robots reproduction with Whittaker's vocals. It was a let down, but I'm a snooty Gorgut's fan, so this didn't detract much from the album. The outro was really just a letdown after such a brutal album. It was a clean and simple, sad sounding, bummer. I'm not sure what effect he meant to give his listeners with it.

Overall, it's a very heavy album that deserves a couple listens from brutal death metal and slam fans.

A once fiery wrath is now quelled - 56%

Pathological_Frolic, January 27th, 2008

It's saddening when bands I like release albums that could have been great, but fail for so many reasons. Shawn Whittaker is such a skilled rhythm guitarist in the field of death metal and is quite skilled at writing some great brutal death metal with no band mates (Just look at Insidious Decrepancy's first album), but somehow this one just doesn't do anything for me.

Well, the biggest fault for me is the production. Other Viral Load releases are hostile, bass-heavy, and, forgive the cliche, "in your face". This simply isn't. The best adjective I could conjure for this would be "Flaccid". The production is quite bass-heavy, but not in the same way it was on "Brutalized Beyond Belief". The guitars just mire under a drum program track, sounding as though they were recorded on a very good mp3 player's recording function. The first few seconds of "Ice Pick Vasectomy" could have been leagues better if simply mastered a different way. In it's current form, however, it reminds me of Dethklok.

This isn't to say that somehow the riffs save the music from failure. Whittaker employs the same riffs we've heard on the last two Viral Load LPs, except in a manner that sounds very held back. His slow parts, which are wonderful usually for their sheer crushing heaviness, are simply boring, and seem to have been put there just to put bridges in the songs between parts.

The vocals are decently performed, though there is no variation in the performance, as there was in the past (The track, "Cockroach Cumrag" off Practitioners of Perversion comes to mind) . He simply growls, and maybe does a higher/lower pitched grunt once in a while, but this is about it.

In summation, this album’s not a complete loss with a few decent riffs and songs somewhere in there. The solo on U-Haul Full of Dead Bodies is the best part of the whole album. However, as stated in the title, the viciousness is not as it used to be on this album.