Their nineteen ninety debut, Slaughter in the Vatican
, was a brutal thrash album that grinded relentlessly, merging styles from both the East and West coasts. The textures sounded comparable to Nuclear Assault
crossed with Slayer
. Then on their nineteen ninety two sophomore album, The Law
, they refined their wild and barbaric thrashing while creating an identity of their own. This time they forsake the New York
influences and were just their angry selves taking on Southern influences. If that album sounds like Pantera
, it’s because they were influenced by it. The Law
was released before The Cowboys from Hell
and Phillip Anselmo is a native of New Orleans. It’s been twenty seven years since their previous release and the band now has three lineup changes. They’ve got a new rhythm guitarist, bassist and drummer. The title of this new CD, Mourn the Southern Skies
, may have been influenced by the devastation of hurricane Katrina and much of New Orleans still remains in ruin.
The first song , My Time, commences with some stop and go shredding. Then the guitarists rip forward at a fast pace, as the drummer pummels along and the bassist plays rapid coarse notes. The backup vocalists casually chant out the chorus. “Go fuck yourself, it’s time my time is mine.” Then the lead vocalist bluntly blurts out his lines. “I don’t give a fuck, you’re out of luck, so don’t whine.” Halfway in the intensity increases with faster riff shifting and then there is an awesome guitar solo towards the end. Original vocalist, Kyle Thomas, is now forty nine years of age. He has been busy from the mid nineties into the twenty tens with various heavy metal and stoner doom bands. Kyle provides a commanding presence, with a very masculine and aggressive personality. His baritone voice has a slightly gruff quality and the chorus vocals add a style of Southern groove.
The original lead guitarist, Vinnie Labella, is the recognizable character with the long gray beard, beanie and sunglasses. The new rhythm guitarist is Marzi Montazeri from Houston
, who has worked with Superjoint Ritual
and some underground sludge bands in the region. Marzi often plays super fast riffs and melodic shredding with a Southern fashion. Vinnie decorates the music with hyperactive hooks and dazzling solos. The fourth track, Beware the Wolf
, immediately takes off with hyperactive shredding. The bassist chops with a robust rhythm and the drummer beats with energetic shuffling patterns. Kyle throatily hollers out his lyrics with a cadence, that is similar to the old Metallica
Militia. “The evil of all evil lurks in the dark, hiding behind the shadow of smiles.” “Ponder the perfect moment to strike and laying the bait.” Then about halfway in the guitarists rip out with more intense shredding and the drummer adds some blast beats.
The seventh number, Ruminating, begins with chaos and then breaks out with tumultuous guitar picking. The speed and intensity picks up with some rhythmic grinding. The bassist chugs along with the heavier notes, as the vocalist angrily shouts out his lines. “Strapped to a rotting bed, if I were up I’d rule the world.” “Without me that worthless son of a bitch would not have a dime.” Then the lead guitarist shreds while the drummer plays fluttering patterns. Towards the end there is a squealing high note guitar solo, along with a rugged bass rhythm. “So face your reflection and take your medication.” The new bassist is forty eight year old Jason
Viebrooks from Ohio. He is also an active member of Heathen
and War Curse
, which released an album last May. He often plucks along using midrange notes, with coarse textures that blend in with the guitars. Sometimes he plays swift chugging notes and ugly rhythms that propel the momentum of these compositions.
The new drummer is forty three year old Sasha Horn
from Chicago, who is a member of Forbidden
and has worked with Ava Inferi
. He’s very active with fast pounding and mixing up the beat tones. There are a lot of stutter beats and sudden drum rolls in his repertoire. The last offering, which is the title track, starts with delicate acoustic guitar picking. Then Kyle emotionally sings as though this is a melancholic ballad. “I date the final entry, they’ve been so far between.” “Where’s the land of honey?” After about a minute, the electric guitars break out, with slow and heavy bass lines. The drummer shuffles along in this bluesy metal dirge. The guitarists play chunky riffs at a lethargic tempo, with some symphonic music moving in towards the end. This song obviously relates to the tragedy of hurricane Katrina, when so many people lost everything but their lives.
Most of the lyrics were written by Kyle. There are a variety of topics that relate to a family man. Who has conflicts at work, with con artists and the destructive forces of nature. After twenty seven years, his voice still sounds powerful enough. But he was twenty two years of age at the time of their previous album. He had a stronger set of lungs back then, with bolder yelling and could suspend a scream for at least ten seconds. The backup vocals add a fluent harmony that they didn’t have back in the early nineties. They only had Vinnie as the guitarist on their debut and they had a second guitarist on their sophomore album. This new rhythm guitarist is an upgrade, because he is so articulate with the fret board. They had two different bassists on their two previous albums, who both played more brutal, heavier and in your face. The original drummer, Chris Nail, played with a lot more pizzazz than we hear on this album. So the new bassist and drummer were not upgrades. Most of the music was composed by Vinnie. The other two albums were more vicious and exhibited a purer form of thrash metal. This is still a very good album, with hyperactive thrashing and shredding incorporating a Southern twang.