Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Embrace of Thorns - Prevalence: A Decade of Atomic Genocide (2009)

Prevalence: A Decade of Atomic Genocide is exactly the sort of compilation effort that the fans should get behind, because it does all of the legwork in collecting a good band's out of print, obscure output. I won't promise that all of the material here is quite so impressive as the Embrace of Thorns full-lengths, but it certainly syncs up in terms of its stylistic involvement and you can clearly experience the band's progression into the dark depths of their 2007 debut, ...For I See Death In Their Eyes... and their success in becoming what just might be the best 'old school' or retro sounding death metal band among the entire Hellenic scene.

The album collects the Greeks' first three demos and their side of the 2009 Abominable Ceremonial Torment split (with countrymen Nocturnal Vomit). They seem to be set forth in reverse order, so I'd advise that anyone wishing to mark the band's try and find a way to listen in reverse order. The material from the In Embracing of the Goat split seems to be omitted here, but it's basically the Stench of the Deceased Martyrs demo anyway, so no real loss. What's most amusing is that some of the songs here make even the band's later full-lengths seem rather tame in comparison, so raw and forceful the music and carnal vocals feel, but the songwriting is often just not on par.

From back to front, we start with The Inevitable Twilight of the Judeochristian Lie demo (2003), which features a trio of writhing, rugged black/death metal tracks with both rasped and incredibly ominous guttural vocals. These are arguably mixed in a little loud, stealing away from the mix of the instruments, but then, the riffs are your pretty standard early 90s mesh of chords and tremolo picking without much of an evil direction or impressive selection of notes. "Emerald of Hate" is probably the best of this lot, though "Blinded Whores...Addicted to the Nazarene" has a few moments of enjoyable ineptitude. They've also included the "Satanic Blood" cover (Von), which is more or less a raw rehearsal that feels every bit as crude as the original, but not really matching the band's own studio tracks.

After this is the Chants of Atomic Genocide rehearsal demo (2004), which is more substantial, though much of its content is also reprinted here as the Stench of the Deceased Martyrs EP (also 2004). So you have your infernal mass of live evil with tinny drums and guitars, ovebearing vocals and admittedly a lot of authentic character. Or the studio incarnation, which is no less atmospheric. I chose the latter, since tracks like "Mass Annihilation Project" and "I Am the Face of Genocide" sound darker through both their black/death metal tribulations and the horrific ambient fixtures. Finally, though, we come to the 2005 split songs: the disturbing, percussion-less resonance of "The Crumbling Realm of Whitewinged Cadavers" (what a title) or the total underworld bulldozer that is "Corpus Christii...Behold Thy Decline", the best and most sinister song on this entire collection, followed by "The Virtuous Whore", which is similar.

I think the only real downside here, if there is any, is simply the redundancy of some of its track order (live and studio versions, often quite close to one another on the playlist), but then...the band and label were concerned with 'completion', which they have achieved. I also appreciate that most of this material was NOT re-released on the debut ...For I See Death In Their Eyes.... The only exception is "Semptinernally Cursing the Weak", but most of that material was newly written for the album, so most of what you hear on Prevalence will be your first exposure, unless you are one of a handful of people who owned or downloaded the demos in advance. Embrace of Thorns have ultimately gathered a victory for their fans, even if these songs are passable for the later stuff.

Verdict: Win [7/10]

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