Vital Remains - _Forever Underground_
(Osmose Productions, 1997)
by: Steve Hoeltzel (
It's about time this band got signed to a label that can give them the kind of promotion and distribution they deserve, because as the old saying goes, These Guys Kick Ass. Their 1992 debut, _Let Us Pray_, is creepy and seriously heavy, and _Forever Underground_ continues in that vein, injecting a bit more variation and some all-out speed. (The band also put out an album in '95, but I haven't heard that one.) This has 43 minutes of music packed into six tracks - one of which is just a 0:90 intro. That leaves five unusually lengthy numbers, which again display this bands mastery of crushing, mid-paced death. There's no shortage of blast beats or cool breaks; they're just used with some calculated restraint. I think this approach actually adds a lot of impact: when the first blast beats rip through the first song - not until the 3:00 mark - they release tons of tension built up by the pounding verses. Many bands overuse the blast beat to the point that it just becomes tedious, but not these guys, even though they blast like crazy through the awesome "Battle Ground" and the enjoyable "Eastern Journey". They also don't overload their music with too many riffs and breaks. Tempo variations and killer breaks are numerous, yet scarce enough to ratchet up the tension and to preserve momentum and flow. The production is great, as are the performances, especially newcomer Dave Suzuki's precise and powerful drumming. This guy has got the blast beat down cold. Tony Lazaro cranks out some great riffs, some of which have a slight Morbid Angel feel, due to the way certain notes and chords get bent around for emphasis. Bassist Joe Lewis belts out solid, traditional death metal vocals. There is also -very- minimal use of synth - never during a verse or chorus, but only to subtly underscore a few rhythm guitar breaks with eerie tones. I guess this means that those who attempt to prove their highly questionable manliness by ragging on bands who use keyboards can snipe about Vital Remains, too. That, however, would be a big mistake.
(article published 5/13/1997)
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