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VEKTOR Terminal Redux Album Cover Terminal Redux
4.45 | 19 ratings
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VOIVOD Dimension Hatröss Album Cover Dimension Hatröss
4.24 | 37 ratings
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CORONER No More Color Album Cover No More Color
4.23 | 28 ratings
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MADROST The Essence of Time Matches No Flesh Album Cover The Essence of Time Matches No Flesh
4.41 | 7 ratings
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VEKTOR Outer Isolation Album Cover Outer Isolation
4.18 | 34 ratings
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WATCHTOWER Control And Resistance Album Cover Control And Resistance
4.20 | 25 ratings
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VOIVOD Killing Technology Album Cover Killing Technology
4.14 | 30 ratings
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INVOCATOR Weave the Apocalypse Album Cover Weave the Apocalypse
4.27 | 7 ratings
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MEKONG DELTA In a Mirror Darkly Album Cover In a Mirror Darkly
4.25 | 7 ratings
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MEKONG DELTA Dances of Death (And Other Walking Shadows) Album Cover Dances of Death (And Other Walking Shadows)
4.21 | 7 ratings
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VEKTOR Black Future Album Cover Black Future
4.06 | 36 ratings
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SADUS A Vision of Misery Album Cover A Vision of Misery
4.14 | 7 ratings
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SKEPTOR United We Stand...Together We Fall

Album · 2014 · Technical Thrash Metal
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"United We Stand...Together We Fall" is the debut full-length studio album by US, California based power/speed/thrash metal act Skeptor. The album was independently released in January 2014. Skeptor were formed in 2011 and disbanded in 2015, making "United We Stand...Together We Fall" their sole studio album release in their original run.

Stylistically the music on "United We Stand...Together We Fall" is technical US power/speed/thrash metal and artists like Watchtower, Toxik, and Realm, are all valid references. This sounds an awful lot like it was released in the late 80s, so if that´s the sound Skeptor went for, they should be applauded for their efforts. It´s as authentic sounding as it gets 25 years later. The band are very well playing, delivering sharp thrashy riffing, melodic leads, and technical drumming, and lead vocalist Steven Villa is a powerful singer who hits some exceptionally high notes. He reminds me of Alan Tecchio (Watchtower, Hades, Non-Fiction), as he has a similar rather extreme way of performing high pitched screaming vocals.

The material on the 7 track, 34:21 minutes long album is well written, intriguing, and powerful. It´s fairly technical in nature, but not at the expense of raw and energetic speed/thrash metal power. "United We Stand...Together We Fall" is also well produced and upon conclusion it´s a very promising debut album by Skeptor. With it´s relatively long intro track "Turn It Off" and the "Savage Metal" instrumental track placed later on the album, it´s slightly disjointed and could probably have prospered from a better tracklist flow, but it´s a minor detail when the songwriting, sound production, and performances are as strong as they are here. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

SADUS Illusions (Chemical Exposure)

Album · 1988 · Technical Thrash Metal
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While all thrash bands were clearly influenced by the likes Venom, so too were the big four of Metallica, Megadeath, Anthrax and Slayer game changes as they ratcheted up the extreme elements and took it all to the next level, however it was Possessed who took things even further and unleashed their highly caustic “Seven Churches” upon an unsuspecting world and in the process provided breadcrumbs that would lead into the next phase of thrash transmogrification into the death metal scene. While Possessed would devolve back into the rather customary thrash metal followup “Beyond The Gates” as the band went for the more commercial route rather than continuing their sui generis brand of balls to the wall proto-death metal, it wouldn’t take long for another Bay Area thrash band to pick up where “Seven Churches” left off and once again blur the distinction between the status quo thrash of the 80s with the more gritty heft of what would become 90s death metal.

SADUS actually formed in 1984, the year before “Seven Churches” was released but after a few years of honing their chops and releasing a couple cassette only demos in the form of “Death To Posers” and “Certain Death,” the band renewed the fiery spunk that Possessed had suddenly dropped. Augmented by the over the top bass antics of Steve Di Giorgio and percussive explosiveness of Jon Allen, SADUS had achieved a more aggressive and extreme metal sound that wandered far beyond the parameters of the competition and like many underground extreme metal bands of the era found a cult following before a debut album was even released. After the 1987 compilation “Raging Death Vol. 1” which has been called the ultimate proto-death goldmine, the quartet that consisted of Darren Travis (lead vocals, guitar), Steve Di Giorgio (bass, backing vocals), Jon Allen (drums) and Rob Moore (guitar) put the finishing touches on their debut album ILLUSIONS with the assistance of Metal Church’s guitarist John Marshall and the album was released in 1988.

ILLUSIONS was released independently and the chaotic tremolo fueled lightning strike made quite the impression as it not only unleashed an unrelenting technical thrash blitzkrieg to the senses that took the unbridled fury of Possessed but also added a touch of the technical prowess of bands like Watchtower. The album’s metallic fury caught the attention of Roadracer Records who re-released the album under the title CHEMICAL EXPOSURE in 1991 (which offered two bonus tracks from previously released demos). After the introductory brevity of an atmospheric synthesized drone, ILLUSIONS explosively bursts into metallic bombast that doesn’t let up the attack on the senses until the closing title track which ironically contained both release titles neatly packed into one, thus “Illusions (Chemical Exposure)” which must’ve been the inspiration for bands like Esoteric to delve into the freeform surreal metal paradigms of what sounds like the radioactive decay of isotopes after the nuclear impact of the orotundity that preceded.

While some have criticized SADUS’ use of speed at the expense of the melodic developments that contemporary thrash metal was implementing at the time as heard by Metallica, Exodus, Forbidden and other Bay Area thrash acts, the truth is that the frenetic nature of this beast simply obfuscates the melodic constructs by creating more angular deliveries and takes a much darker dance into the tortured psyche of humankind which is made all the more sadistic by the psychopathic vocal outpouring of lead vocalist Darren Travis. It’s also very obvious how SADUS were influential for the death metal of Morbid Angel and others to come with a pyroclastic explosiveness of tremolo picked guitar riffs and the squealing solos that erupt like a tortured pig at a Satanic sacrificing ritual. The album perfectly balanced the stable elements of thrash with a reckless sense of unpredictability that made the perfect “dangerous listening” experience. The production while not polished is much better than a mere demo and likewise skirts the fine balance between too primitive and too polished.

While SADUS didn’t quite achieve the commercial success as other Bay Area thrash legends such as Metallica or Exodus, the band nevertheless was quite influential in the underground movement and blurred the distinction between the fledgling metal subgenera that were splintering apart and despite it all sold quite well for a completely self-released underground creation. Violent and psychotically unhinged, SADUS demonstrated that what Possessed had hit upon was worthy of further exploration and with ILLUSIONS demonstrated the musical chops to crank out the blitzkrieg assault of guitar, bass and drums in an incessant speed frenzy that cross-pollinated the world of thrash and the nascent death metal of Chuck Schuldiner’s Death and created pure sonic destruction. While still considered a thrash metal album, it’s not hard to hear that with just a few small alterations such as the Cookie Monster death growls and a little tweaking of the guitar riffs that this would have been considered amongst the first death metal releases. No matter what you call it, SADUS cranked out an amazing delivery of some of the most energetic metal music of the entire 80s with labyrinthine song structures performed with a rather eccentric touch of madness and for that this one holds a special place in history.

MESHUGGAH Contradictions Collapse / None

Boxset / Compilation · 1998 · Technical Thrash Metal
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Combo packs are always cool because more often than not you get a good deal that includes some rare or hard to track down tracks that have been out of print for a while but often such compilations throw you a curve ball by advertising one thing and only delivering an incompletion of the entire package. Such is the case with the 1998 MESHUGGAH compilation that combined the 1991 debut album “Contradictions Collapse” with the following 1994 EP “None.” The original release by Nuclear Blast was only available in digipak but has since been released as a regular CD as well as vinyl 12”.

This compilation contains all eight tracks from the original “Contradictions Collapse” plus the extra track “Cadaverous Mastication” which appeared originally on the debut self-titled EP (also known as “Psykisk Testbild”) but has been tacked on to later versions of MESHUGGAH’s debut full-length album. While this is fine and dandy, what irks me is that the EP “None” only appears with the first four tracks while the fifth “Aztec Two-Step” has been eliminated due to time limits since it skirted close to the eleven minute mark. While some have stated they find the track annoying, i personally love it and find the “None” experience incomplete without it. Other than that the album flows along with both releases appearing in order of original release.

One thing i do appreciate about this combo pack is that it represents in full contrast the great leap of technical prowess that MESHUGGAH undertook during the three year period between. The debut found the band still stuck in their early Metallica worship years with many riffs lifted directly from albums like “Master Of Puppets” and “…And Justice For All” although the band was starting to unleash the latent experimental freakery which at the time was still kept on a leash. The difference between the last track of “Contradictions Collapse” and the leading “Humiliative” from “None” is stark as it clearly displays how progressive, technical and experimental the band had become as it shed its thrash dependencies and sallied forth into the brave new world of djent-ology.

Since “None” is incomplete, this is really just an edition of “Contradictions Collapse” with four bonus tracks but four really good bonus tracks that hopefully will lead to acquisition of the actual EP in its entirety. While many may not really care if a mere one track is missing, especially from an EP which is often regarded as supplemental, then this is not a bad way to go but for me, “None” is the far superior release and deserves to be experienced in its entirety. I understand why these sorts of comps are released considering many wouldn’t bother to track down the EPs that lurk between the cracks but it totally irritates me when such comps represent themselves as being the complete editions at hand but take liberties in editing out relevant material. Oh well.

MESHUGGAH Contradictions Collapse

Album · 1991 · Technical Thrash Metal
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While many metal bands have spent a career recycling the riffs and musical styles of other artists, some who start out that way actually latch on to their own sound and take the world by storm with innovative and out of the box approaches. Metallica took the world by storm in the 80s as they unleashed a unique mix of thrash metal, classical harmonizing and extreme metal assault and while bands like Testament have been churning out one alternative Metallica album after another for decades, MESHUGGAH on the other hand who started out worshipping the altar of albums like “Master Of Puppets” and “..And Justice For All” moved on into more progressive pastures.

The band was founded all the way back in 1987 by guitarist Frederik Thordendal and vocalist Jens Kidman and were no doubt influenced by the American thrash scene given its world dominating presence. The debut self-titled EP which is also known as “Psykisk Testbild” was the grand declaration that MESHUGGAH had the chops and stamina to be the best Metallica clone in the universe and pulled it off with ease yet it never occurred to the Thordendal and team to include even a lick of originality and despite its best efforts, the band just simply created an alternative universe release that seemed to have been slipped in between the “Masters Of Puppets” and “…And Justice For All” timeline.

Following the short little EP of three track by two years MESHUGGAH finally released their debut album CONTRADICTIONS COLLAPSE in 1991 and at long last started to show a little individuality as the band ratcheted a few significant steps up the creativity totem pole which would ultimately lead them to finding their niche as one of the world’s leading progressive extreme metal band that hybridized death, thrash and progressive metal with healthy doses of jazz-fusion and the avant-garde but this debut album despite a major leap forward still suffers from many too close to the source moments as the band hadn’t quite distanced themselves from the 80s American thrash scene. b The album also debuts Tomas Haake on drumming duties after the departure of Niclas Lundgren.

CONTRADICITONS COLLAPSE is quite unique in the MESHUGGAH canon as it bridges the gap between the Metallica clone origins and the extreme technical wizardry that would soon follow. This technical thrash metal workout begins to branch out from the world of Metallica and starts to employ not only the progressive metal angularity of future releases but also includes the percussive drum pattern influences of other genres such as hip hop and industrial dance. There is also a lot of alternative metal riffing and for the most part the drumming styles are less bombastic than on future albums. The album originally contained only eight tracks with the ninth “Cadaverous Mastication” taken from the debut EP and tacked on future releases.

Right from the start with the first surreal introductory guitar fueled cacophony of “Paralyzing Ignorance,” it’s clear that MESHUGGAH was moving into a stranger new arena of metal but the track reverts back to a standard thrash metal paradigm with choppy guitar riffage, blasting bass and drumming as well as a clearly James Hetfield style of vocal shouting. Despite the more loosely constructed tracks many of the heavy riffs are very similar to Metallica riffs such as “Battery” or “The Shortest Straw,” however MESHUGGAH begins to surprise even at this early stage and meanders into more progressive arenas. Little tidbits such as the sitar on “We’ll Never See The Day” show the band flirting with the bizarre but only for fleeting moments.

While the thrash riffing and vocals are highly derivative, it often sounds like MESHUGGAH is on the verge of breaking into their bizarre surreal metal style that characterizes albums such as “Chaosphere” but yet for the most part the band gets cold feet and never strays too far as if they were afraid that it would lead them into the world of uncommercial ventures. Ironic that when they finally let the freak flag fly is when they really captured the world’s attention. I dunno. I want to like this one more but it basically falls into three categories: Sounds like really good Metallica. Sounds like stoned Metallica. Sounds like Metallica on a mix of mushrooms, peyote and LSD. In the end this isn’t a bad album at all but the many riffs lifted and Hetfield vocals just rub me the wrong way and impede my enjoyment of the album as a whole.

The album was re-released with the following EP “None” and while CONTRADICTIONS COLLAPSE doesn’t constitute a horrible album per se, it doesn’t help that when played with the much more advanced “None” following, it only makes it more clear how immature this album is in comparison to the highly technical and innovative albums like “Chaosphere,” “Nothing” and “Catch Thirtythree.” For true fans, you will inevitably come to this debut eventually and it does offer some excellent tracks like the awesome “Choirs Of Destruction” that is the closest thing to their more modern style as it cranks out the unique chugging format after a downer acoustic guitar intro and a surreal vocal intro but even this one reverts back to the alt meets thrash that focuses on Metallica’s dual classical guitar harmonizing melodies. Better things to come but a decent competent debut even if it’s not outstanding.

MESHUGGAH Meshuggah (Psykisk Testbild)

EP · 1989 · Technical Thrash Metal
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While Europe pioneered the extreme metal scene with bands like Venom and Hellhammer with the help of the hardcore punk scene from artists such as Discharge and Amebix, the USA actually fostered in the most successful bands that developed a new form of metal called thrash. Slayer, Anthrax, Medgadeth and Metallica, the big four, launched an entire new metal paradigm and it was time for new bands to follow in the footsteps of a new American strain of extremity.

Scandinavia would become the hotbed for even stranger forms of metal and in the coastal city of Umeå, Sweden, one of the future bands that would deliver one of the strangest forms of technical metal of all. MESHUGGAH formed all the way back in 1987 by guitarist Frederik Thordenal and vocalist Jens Kidman and were no doubt influenced by the American thrash scene given its world dominating presence.

Before the band would become world famous themselves for the unique hybridization of death, thrash and progressive metal with jazz elements, MESHUGGAH was clearly in full Metallica worship mode on their early albums and after the two founders recruited bassist Peter Nordin and drummer Niclas Lundgren, the band would release the first eponymously titled EP in 1989 but has gained the nickname PSYKISK TESTBILD for its hypnotic black and white psychedelic album cover.

While only an EP of three tracks that slightly exceeds the nineteen minute mark, MESHUGGAH proved they had the chops to be the best Metallica clone in the biz. Copping the staccato riffing bravado of the “…And Justice For All” album with the heavy thrash of “Masters Of Puppets,” this EP was certainly a grand declaration that this Swedish band was well on its way to be reckoned with. The only problem at this stage was the overt lack of originality despite the decent production job and outstanding musical talent.

While the introduction to MESHUGGAH was only issued as a 12” vinyl record limited to a1000 copies it’s very unlikely anyone will come across this unless they are a true collector willing to shell out some dough however the tracks were later reissued and included on the compilation “Rare Trax.” This short debut is also the only release to feature drummer Niclas Lundgren before long time member Tomas Haake would take over as drummer. While showing great promise, this is really one for the collector’s only. Despite the great musicianship displayed, this is a Metallica clone all the way.

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