Metal Archives

This album is fucking stupid.
No, seriously, it is. I mean, I like Iced Earth much more than the next guy (not a very popular band, really), but if you told me to picture IE gone the way of skullfucking deathrash, I'd tell you to fuck off with your obscene, revolting shit. Turns out, it wouldn't be half-bad, and you would not be nearly as much of a tosser as you sound. But yeah, no, this stuff isn't half-bad. Hell, it isn't even a third or a quarter-bad. It's pretty much all non-bad, in a way that makes me want to grit my teeth like a Rob Liefeld character and headbang hamsters into pudding.
Allow me to elaborate on the aforementioned silliness of this record; it is the result of a power metal outfit going a step beyond even Evolution Purgatory era Persuader. So, what I mean is that this is a power metal band actually blurring the line between their field and fucking death/thrash/extreme whatever the fuck metal, seriously and without making it sound like some tortured, patchwork abomination of stapled together metal tropes. It really is basically just Iced Earth style power/thrash pushed into the edge of Azathothian insanity; the guitar gallops are played at necksnapping speed while the drummer pounds with an intensity worthy of Behemoth or God Dethroned. Sure, they slow down a bit a coupla times, like at the beginning of "A Martyr's Birth", but that's just to give a bit of a break to the drummer so that A) his arms won't spontaneously combust and B) he can continue pushing whole bars of compacted cocaine into his sinuses. Because that song? Yeah, it doesn't stay slow and quiet for very long. That is just not the way Desert Near the End wet their hands; less cold, precise scalpel, more swinging, bloodied flail.
There isn't really much to speak of in the way of variety, and the journey's pretty short, but this works out in the piece's favour. If you made this thing longer it'd go from pleasantly intense to deafeningly tedious, and if you made it more colourful you'd dilute the pure, blazing wrath that drives it forward. Perfect length, perfect focus, really. If I gotta pick a highlight though? Definitely the titletrack, possessing the tightest, catchiest, most crushing riffs in an album nearly entirely built out of those. The part where it just drops into this huge, fucking, crushing, fuckin'... FUCK mid-paced groover will see you banging your head or will see you dead. Either is just fuckin' peachy.
I've walked this whole mile without even mentioning the vocals, which is fitting, as they kinda deserve a space of their own. They sound like basically no one else I can think of, save for maybe a James Hetfield circa Justice trying to roar like Piotr from Vader. Yes, that also sounds like it'd be complete shit, but it fits the music like a scabbard does its sword. The few cleaner, softer passages are a lot more reminiscent of BG's Hansi, though definitely coarser and less subdued, with the constant menace of imminent rage bubbling under the surface. The dude sounds furious, like some sort of mad god-sorcerer that has clouds of locusts coming out of his mouth every time he opens it. You can almost feel the way his throat reverberates from sheer intensity, but always in a strangely tuneful manner that sounds technically proficient without sacrificing any of the frothing insanity.
Do politely bugger off if you're looking for anything melodically complex or poetically meaningful. Feel free to put your length in this piece of meat if you're down for some blisteringly hot, sand-blasted madness in the shape of power metal as played by people whose entire bloodstream has been replaced with napalm and electricity. Okay, maybe the last song is a kind of pseudo-ballad in the vein of early Metallica, but it still fuckin' rules so you can fuck right off and actually do something productive like listen to this album.

92/100
Xlxlx (Metal Archives)

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