Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Fatal Embrace - The Ultimate Aggression (1999)

Fatal Embrace were another band, similar to Witchburner, who would form in the 90s and by the end of that decade begin to aggressively pursue a return to the blistering, occult roots of speed thrash metal that were originally manifest through Venom, Slayer, Possessed, Kreator and Sodom. There is less of a direct black metal imprint on this record than, say, Blasphemic Assault, but it pursues some of the same riffing trees and ultimately succeeds due to the sheer atmosphere it presents. Dirk Heiland's vocals sound like a hybrid of Cronos, King Fowley and Tom Angelripper, and I really enjoy the resonance they create through the mix, all thanks to just the right level of reverb.

As for the guitars, they do little more than blaze trails in tribute to their masters, and tracks like "Follow Your Nightmare" and "Under My Sadistic Reign" are hardly intricate. There are rarely patterns of notes here that deride the beaten path, so it's a pretty predictable listen. But the vocals, the atmosphere and the wild, sporadic leads go a long way towards appreciation, and the album is clearly capable of putting a smile on the face of any old schooler who was seeking more in the vein of the band's diabolic influences of the 80s. Even when the band slows to a morbid crawl in "The Last Rites" or the eerie, escalating "Nocturnal Anguish", they never bite off more than they can chew, and The Ultimate Aggression is ultimately paced very well, spending equal time on both the mid paced thrashers and bleeding speedsters to balance the listener's interest.

The album is produced very well, at least for what it offers. The guitars are good and thick, and as I've mentioned, the reverb level is perfect to make the material sound like it's bouncing at you from the cliffs of hell during a molten storm. Really, the only thing missing is just the actual songwriting (the cover of Exodus' "Bonded by Blood" is also disposable). It's good enough to stride in the shadows of the band's forebears, but never enough to actually make a name for itself. Thus, this is never an album I actually seek to experience of its own accords, but its quite satisfying for the duration. The band would continue on to bigger things, career-wise, later signing to Pure Steel and more recently to Metal Blade, but I feel that The Ultimate Aggression remains as one of their better albums. If you're hunting for a mesh of Welcome to Hell, Seven Churches, Fearless Undead Machines and Hell Awaits, you could do a lot worse than this debut.

Verdict: Win [7.25/10]

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