Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Fatal Embrace - Legions of Armageddon (2002)

Fatal Embrace weren't pretty, and they weren't very original, but with the debut The Ultimate Aggression, they managed to drop a decent homage to their German thrashing forefathers, with nods to Venom, Slayer and Bathory. A few years later, they swapped labels (something they've done on each consecutive album) and released Legions of Armageddon, which follows the same course as the debut, only faster, meaner, and just an elbow's room superior. The vocals are pretty great here, often veering into primordial death metal territory, but the real treat is the Harris Johns production, which is nearly as legendary and balanced as his classic 80s arsenal (in particular I was reminded of Sodom's Agent Orange).

The catch is that the sophomore has a fluctuating 'peaks and valleys' quality. The warring sample of "Wishmaster's Revenge" tears into "666 (Massacre in Paradise)", which is a fortress of tight Germanic speed riffing and bloodsoaked, death vocals; and the more measured thrashing of "Legions of Armageddon" itself. But by then, you've descended from the infernal clutches of the hellish heights to the more flat plane of "Mentally Perversion", which doesn't have much to it except some standard, forgettable riffs. "Returned to Hell" and "Trapped in a Violent Brain" pick the pace back up to a violent explosion, the latter with a lot of Slayer influence, and then we run smack into another average track, "Spellbound by the Devil", with only 1-2 exciting riffs. The following "Depraved to Black" slows to a crawl, with a dark, morose opening sequence that splices off into more mediocre thrashing, but thankfully the closer "Wargods of Thrash" goes all epic on us and lives up to its title.

The songwriting is comparable but less exciting compared to Swedish bands like Witchery and Bewitched, and it lacks the feral charms of an Aura Noir, but overall it delivers on a number of fronts, especially for those craving generic occult assault thrash with a thread of authenticity needled through its viral speed. I definitely enjoy Dirk Heiland's style, brooding and angry and capable of a quality growl if the aggression merits such, and the guitars are so crisp and brutal that I'm often willing to forgive the underwhelming note sequences. But in the end, even though they write good albums that please the palette for pain and velocity, they simply don't have the structure or the resonant choruses that their influences made legendary, and thus the label of overly qualified tribute can't seem to be shaken free of their leather and bullet belts.

Verdict: Win [7.5/10]

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