To the best of my knowledge, this is the best selling death metal album of all time. Something about that makes it sound like its an essential record to me, which is why I find myself listening to a straight-up death metal record from 1994, years after the genres invention, and probably right around the time people were starting to expand death metal to make it more musically interesting and less monotonous.
The thing is, this is mostly monotonous. Like all metal records of the last 35 years or so, which adhere strictly to one genre, this record is 37 minutes of (near) monotony. That monotony is definitely appealing to lots of people – including myself – but that doesn’t take away from how one-note this is.
The whole thing is incredibly heavy. The riffs are reasonably complex while pummeling, the drums are pummeling, the solos are pretty technical, the growl is in full force. Only occasionally, when Barnes screams, or when the music takes the briefest of interludes to acknowledge there is other music besides straight-up death metal, are we reminded that this could be something more than just 37 minutes of pummeling, reasonably difficult riffs with growling and the odd solo. I get that this is a virtue for those who love the genre. But I like variety, even in my metal. There is virtually none on this record. (Again, just that one brief moment.)
This record does what it set out to do. If there’s a reason why it’s the best selling death metal album of all time it’s because it’s a very strong example of purist death metal. But, unless it’s a record that helped establish the genre’s conventions – and it’s not – I can’t help but feel that some variety would be far more appealing to someone like me. What’s more frustrating is that there is that one moment where they show that, yes, they can actually play other genres of music on occasion.
It’s a good death metal record. But it’s just not for me.
7/10 I guess