REALM — Endless War (review)

REALM — Endless War album cover Album · 1988 · Technical Thrash Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
Endless War is the debut full-length studio album by US progressive/ technical thrash metal act Realm. The album was released in November 1988 by Roadrunner Records. After having been out of print for many years Endless War saw a re-release in 2006/ 2007 in regular CD and digipack format. The digipack is limited to 2000 numbered copies. The original album contained 11 tracks while the re-release features the bonus track "Theseus and the Minotaur". There are some informative liner notes in the booklet to the re-release written by guitarist Takis Kinis.

The music on the album is some very unconventional progressive/ technical thrash metal. Lead vocalist Mark Antoni masters both high pitched vocals and screams but also more raw thrash styled singing. In the booklet guitarist Takis Kinis describes the music like this: "Think of the progressiveness of Rush, the harmony guitars of Maiden, the rapid fire quick lead exchanges of Judas Priest, and the speed and power of Slayer". I´d add to that the extremely technical playing on "Energetic Disassembly (1985)" by Watchtower and the intricate technical playing on "Perfect Symmetry (1989)" by Fates Warning ( especially the track "Eminence") and say that´s a valid description.

Takis Kinis mentions in the booklet that Endless War is a kind of compilation of the best material that Realm had written up until then (I guess in that way the album doesn´t differ much from most other debut albums). The oldest material (written while Doug Parker was the lead singer) is mostly featured on the latter part of the album, while the, at the time latest written tracks, which were completed after new lead vocalist Mark Antoni had joined, are mostly featured on the first half of the album. IMO that´s audible and a slight weakness on the album. The new tracks are simply superior to the older material and therefore the album starts on a really strong note but drops in quality towards the end. We´re not talking a serious drop in quality but it´s still an obvious drop and a slight issue. Tracks like "Endless War", "Slay the Oppressor" or the above mentioned "Eminence" are killer tracks though and the very up-tempo cover version of "Eleanor Rigby" by The Beatles is also a pretty entertaining track.

Besides some really great tracks (and a couple of less memorable ones) the greatest asset of the album is the high level musicianship. The band are extremely well playing and technically skilled. The guitar solos are blazing screaming shred fests yet with a melodic sensibility. Realm constantly challenges the listener with unusual song structures and time signature- and tempo changes. Never at the expence of power though and thankfully they never forget that they are first and foremost a thrash metal act.

I have a slight issue with the production which lacks a bit of power and maybe a slight polish to bring out the best in the music, and at times the sound production does become a bit strenuous. It´s not to a point where I can´t enjoy the music, but it is a slight issue.

Endless War is a very unique album by Realm. It´s one of those albums that was ahead of it´s time and maybe sadly so ahead of it´s time that it didn´t really catch on with a larger audience. Call it a forgotten gem or whatever you like, but I find Endless War to be a highly recommendable album to fans of late eighties technical/ progressive thrash metal. Despite the few issues I mentioned above a 3.5 - 4 star rating is deserved.
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