Friday, April 22, 2011

Brutality - Screams of Anguish (1993)

Screams of Anguish marked an excellent transition for one of the more unsung acts in the formative Florida death scene. It might have taken seven years since the band's creation to arrive, but it stands far above the demos and EPs that the band had previously produced, eschewing their rugged thrash/grind crossover roots entirely for an onslaught of well written, immaculately produced death metal that integrates both atmosphere and variation into a punishing palette. Perhaps the worst you could say for Brutality was that by 1993 standards, they were not wholly original, drawing on elements from both their direct American peers and overseas (Bolt Thrower), but the music has this incredible maturity to it which absolutely bears distinction among the better known Florida bands like Morbid Angel, Deicide, Death, and so forth. In fact, Screams of Anguish is the best death metal album from this particular scene and year, no mean feat when up against such legends.

"These Walls Shall Be Your Grave" inaugurates the album with a straight, Morbid Angel style blast sauced in glittering, manic micro-leads; but soon grinds down to an atmospheric verse of melodic death/doom, returning to Altars of Madness levels of fury in the bridge. Scott Reigel's vocals here are quite enormous, like a hybrid of Karl Willetts and Glen Benton's growling affixed forcefully to the hammering bass drums and manic riffs. "Ceremonial Unearthing" combines a lot of the same influences as the first track, but then we're in for our first surprise: the synthesized choir and acoustic guitar piece "Sympathy", totally unexpected but quite delicious despite its simplicity. "Septicemic Plague" lays out a wall of huge chords, cystic leads spun off into their own dimension of excess, before the excellent battery of the bridge, muted and melodic. Most of the album's remainder is equivalent in quality, with standouts coming in the rampant "Cryptorium" and epic "Cries of the Forsaken". There's one more ambient interlude, "Spirit World", which again fuses synthesized swells (of haunting winds) and clean guitars; and the album is closed with a reworking of "Spawned Illusion" from the Sadistic EP, and it sounds stunning here.

Brutality had quite a lot going for them, and alongside their statesmen Resurrection they would represent some of the best pure death metal on the earlier Nuclear Blast roster. Here was a band that could cycle through faster and slower material without ever dipping in quality, and restrain their obvious musical ability whenever it did not suit the mood they were creating. The debut was recorded and mixed by Jim Morris at Morrisound, undoubtedly some of the most satisfying audio from that period, with loud and clean, crushing guitar tones, empowered drums, a relatively thick bass presence and dour, conquering gutturals. There is next to no chance of becoming exhausted or bored with this record due to the excellent structure and constant in tempos, and the atmospheric tracks are placed at just the right joints to hint at so much more: a further dimension of possibility. The lyrics are well written if not impressive. Perhaps the riffs are not individually compelling, and the band is rehashing the dynamics of bands like Deicide, Malevolent Creation, Morbid Angel, etc, but these are the only strikes against a potent and substantial debut which is still worth experiencing almost 20 years later.

Verdict: Win [8.25/10]
(choking on man's corruption)

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