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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.