Stamping Ground - _A New Darkness Upon Us_
(Century Media, 2003)
by: Jackie Smit (7.5 out of 10)
That I regard this London-based mob as one of the most exciting, thrilling and invigorating live spectacles around, is something I have never kept secret. On three separate occasions I have had the pleasure of witnessing them come within a hairs-width of overshadowing such heavyweight headliners as The Haunted, Biohazard and Sepultura, and now after a rather lengthy three-year gap between albums, their latest effort, _A New Darkness Upon Us_, is, well... finally upon us.

Much has been made of Andy Sneap's involvement in the production and engineering of this record, and while I have been a fan of Sneap's work on previous Machine Head and Testament records, on this occasion he unfortunately fails to harness the merciless impact of the Stampin' Ground on-stage act, and as a result a very competent album fails slightly to attain its true potential. Suffering particularly in this respect is vocalist Adam Frakes-Sime, who sounds like a pit-bull on PCP when he hits the stage, but on _A New Darkness Upon Us_ comes across as comparatively tame. Similarly drummer Neil Hutton's phenomenal prowess is let down by a production job that is simply too slick for its own good, softening specifically the head-splitting thud of his razor-sharp double-bass work.

Criticisms aside however, this is hands-down the best effort Stampin' Ground have delivered to date. Tracks like "Dead From the Neck Up" or the blistering "Pain Is Weakness" combine the Ground's influences of old-school thrash and hardcore to ferocious effect. Successfully avoiding monotony, the odd melodic surprise even creeps into the fray, with a particularly satisfied nod heading in the direction of "Behind the Light" -- a tune laced with enough vitriolic rage to make any so-called post-hardcore pretender scamper for the nearest pair of available adult undergarments.

So ultimately, despite its shortcomings _A New Darkness Upon Us_ is a good record, and if anything, certainly proof enough that should Stampin' Ground find a way to capture their crushing stage presence in the studio, we could very well have a band of Slayer-like majesty on our hands.

(article published 6/10/2003)

7/22/2003 J Smit Sepultura / Stamping Ground / Atreyu Coming Back Alive and Kicking
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