It took three long years to cough up a second album for Southern Lord Records but LAIR OF THE MINOTAUR did just that with THE ULTIMATE DESTROYER. Much was accomplished on the debut album by setting the bar for some of the most successful fusion of sludge and thrash in all of metal. The band took the raw sludge energy of early Mastodon and gave it a balls-to-the-wall thrash overhaul creating some kick ass and in-yer-face metal with some occasional doom metal aspects to add a bit of atmosphere. On this second release it seems that the band was caffeinated in the studio because the energy level always stays fast, faster and OMG!
While this is a decent album i find it a little less innovative and diverse as “Carnage.” The tracks are all on fire but the songwriting seems to suffer a bit and a feeling of saminess lurks about in the LAIR. What is most disheartening on this one is the production as it sounds like it was supposed to be a demo or something. The mix is pretty weak although the fuzzy guitar and instruments blend well together and don’t detract from the overall musical feel.
The different sub genres of metal seem a little less hybridized as well on this one. The parts are more distinct as the guitar either tackles thrash riffs or opts for sludge but usually not at the same time. The drumming style is more of a sludge style rarely taking on the ferocity of a top notch thrash metal drummer. Steven Rathborne’s vocals are one of the highlights of the band for me as his harsh abrasive barbarian vox box is perfect for the role of epic mythological metal bard.
I find most of the tracks to be fairly indistinguishable in the big scheme of things with only “The Hydra Coils Upon This Wicked Mountain” really stealing my attention in a big time way. The rest of the tracks are by all means played extraordinary well with the pilot light turned up to sizzle but between the production qualities gone awry and the somewhat less pronounced song structures from the debut release i just find this a tad lackluster in comparison.
Still though for fans of early Mastodon and bands like High On Fire, there is still a lot to enjoy on this one despite not quite reaching the heights of the influences that are incorporated. The lyrics are one of the highlights as well. The band continues their use of Greek mythology for their inspiration and incorporates it with their epic metal stance to create themes somewhat reminiscent of epic metal bands of the 80s like Manilla Road and Brocas Helm. A pretty good listen although i prefer the debut for repeated listens.