Various - _Intoxicated Vol. 4_
(Underground Movement, 2006)
by: Jeremy Ulrey (7.5 out of 10)
You just don't hear much from the Emerald Isle in terms of metal these days. Given the relatively diminutive size of the country in the first place, this shouldn't be too surprising; but Underground Movement have dispatched a handful of their countrymen on down to the proctologist and found a four leaf clover hidden up their collective ass.

Though a certain amount of diversity is present on _Intoxicated Vol. 4_, the anthology more importantly serves to highlight the links and common interests that coalesce Irish metal into an actual scene rather than a mere accidental diaspora of bands stagnating in their own isolation. For instance, there are unadorned modern death and black metal acts plying their trade on display (more on them later), but the most recurring motif throughout these eighteen tracks is a return to the basics of '80s influenced thrash -- that seemingly long ago era when brutality was a selling point, but you mostly got by on the strength of your riffs; the idea of relying on atmosphere or heaviness was mostly several years off (present somewhat even then, sure, but highly marginalized, whereas today it's become almost the norm).

As with any compilation focusing primarily on new bands -- and, by natural extension, comprised of a hodgepodge of demos and micro-budget album tracks -- this approach succeeds wildly for some and fails to lift others above the echelon of mediocrity. Mass Extinction tip their hand straight off with a noodling, King / Hanneman guitar intro atop a clattering '80s knob job. The subject: nuclear war. Doesn't get much more retro than that. Victim X have also done their speed metal homework, although they introduce what becomes an unfortunate trend with many of the bands on this comp: diluting the essence of otherwise high quality musicianship with style-less hardcore vocals, none of which have much, if any, true identity -- in other words, the singer too often sounds like an afterthought, with the brunt of the emphasis placed on instrumental chops. It could be worse, but while we're evoking the '80s it might be mentioned that we tended to have our cake and eat it too back then.

This trend of being 90% influenced by one style of music and tacking on an obligatory modern influence to fill up the other 10% is by no means restricted to Irish bands, of course. Furthermore, I prefer to take the optimistic route and see this all as an era where bands are mixing and matching, struggling to find an identity between the classical influences of the past and the insistent lure of Progress, yet on the cusp of creating something whole and coherent; no mere stepping stone, but an eventual full-blown destination point. In the meantime, however, we're faced with some fairly incongruous mash ups here, and we should be careful to laud the seeds of brilliance too early, lest they grow lazy and fail to bear fruit. A spade's still a spade, last time I checked.

The next logical progression would be those bands bridging the technicality and riff-awareness of '80s thrash with the brutality and intensity of early death metal. This is probably the most plentiful group of the lot. Morphosis is the most longstanding of these, with roots back to 1985, though they come off more Earache than Combat. In spite of all that, Morphosis embrace modernism with a clean, instrument-inclusive production. Others -- Existing Threat, Pogrom, Inhumane, the glorious throwback that is Viocosis -- gleefully wallow in the sonic slop of pre-Gothenburg production limitations, their influences bubbling up out of the muck and festering unapologetically under any upturned, purist noses.

Abbadon Incarnate are far and away the biggest name on _Intoxicated Vol. 4_, and they help to anchor the Irish scene in the present. These guys are a premiere black metal act that anyone picking up this anthology will probably have familiarized themselves with already. Flying somewhat further under the radar but equally noteworthy are Druid, also black metal but the virtual antithesis of Abaddon Inc. Whereas the former take the clean, technical route, Druid are awash in atmospheric dins redolent of loose flaps of sheet metal caught in a wind storm. At least they haven't forgotten that stopping every now and then to throw in an actual riff or chord progression does happen to make for compelling songwriting.

Elsewhere the diversity reaches its peak with Wreck of the Hesperus, a droning doom escalation recalling pre-civilized medicine men channelling opium visions into a religious rite, one preordained to end in bloodshed, and Parhelia, a prog band with an emphasis on '70s rock grooves more so than what we usually call metal -- Yes vs. Gentle Giant rather than Queensryche or Dream Theater.

And so, to synopsize: the Irish have realized the importance of hailing their roots while continuing to push things forward into newer, more experimental ventures, and their scene is more cohesive and well rounded for it. Just in time for St. Patty's Day, _Intoxicated Vol. 4_ will hopefully be a sign of excellence to come.


(article published 8/3/2007)

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1/10/2005 T DePalma 7.5 Various - Listen Without Distraction - A Tribute to Kyuss
10/19/2004 P Azevedo 7 Various - Fenriz Presents... The Best of Old-School Black Metal
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3/31/2003 P Azevedo 7.5 Various - Svartmetall Compilation 2001
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4/12/2002 Q Kalis 7.5 Various - The Bells of the Mystical Empire
1/14/2002 A Wee 6 Various - Hellion Promo Vol II
1/14/2002 A McKay 7 Various - Colorado Colossus
10/19/2001 Q Kalis 7.5 Various - Beauty in Darkness 5
8/12/2001 A McKay 2 Various - Brazilian Assault
8/12/2001 V Eldefors 7 Various - Triarchy of Vasconia
8/12/2001 A Wee 9 Various - Black Metal Blitzkrieg
5/13/2001 A Wee 8 Various - The Return of Darkness and Hate
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11/20/2000 A McKay 2 Various - Dead Zeppelin - A Metal Tribute to Led Zeppelin
11/20/2000 A McKay 6.5 Various - In the Sign of the Horns - A Tribute to Venom
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11/20/2000 G Sanchez 8 Various - Coalescence
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10/25/2000 A McKay 7 Various - King Diamond Tribute
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1/15/2000 M Noll 2 Various - A Tribute to Accept
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5/19/1999 A McKay 7 Various - Straight to Hell -- A Tribute to Slayer
5/19/1999 G Sanchez 7.5 Various - Freak Animal Zine #11 CD
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10/1/1998 P Schwarz 8 Various - Amduscias
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9/1/1998 A Bromley 7 Various - Call on the Dark II
9/1/1998 B Meloon 7 Various - Bestial Sampler: 1997-1998
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9/1/1998 P Schwarz 9 Various - Statements of Intent
7/8/1998 A Wasylyk 6 Various - Blackened III
7/8/1998 A Wasylyk 7 Various - Statements of Intent
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6/7/1998 A Wasylyk 7 Various - Voyager: 10 Years Nuclear Blast
6/7/1998 B Meloon 8 Various - Until the End of Time
1/1/1998 A Wasylyk 5 Various - A Declaration of Independence
1/1/1998 A Gaudrault 7 Various - Masters of Misery - Black Sabbath: The Earache Tribute
1/1/1998 A Bromley 7 Various - Untitled (ten)
11/17/1997 A Bromley 8 Various - Earache Unplugged 2
7/14/1997 A Wasylyk 3 Various - The Kanada Compilation
7/14/1997 Z Tsarfin 7 Various - Awakenings: Females in Extreme Music
7/14/1997 A Bromley 9 Various - A Black Mark Tribute
6/7/1997 A Bromley 8 Various - The Ozz-Fest: Live
5/13/1997 P Azevedo 8 Various - Out of the Dark Live Compilation
5/13/1997 S Hoeltzel 9 Various - World Domination II
2/5/1997 A Bromley 5 Various - Frozen Dawn III
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3/14/1996 A Bromley 7 Various - Identity II
3/14/1996 N Bassett 8 Various - With Us Or Against Us
1/17/1996 G Filicetti 9 Various - Four Ways To Misery
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