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Deathmask's Rabid Return

Posted by THE DUKE on May 31, 2012 at 7:15 PM

Deathmask-Sitting In The Dark

2011 Self-Released

It had been 25 years since Deathmask unleashed the speed metal classic “Split The Atom” upon an unsuspecting metal community. Poor promotion and general apathy on the part of the band’s label, Killerwatt Records, led to the album going virtually unnoticed (See Previous Journal Entry). Deathmask reformed to rekindle the fire that was ignited with “Split The Atom.” Through long-distance relationships and a very old-school approach of passing cassette tapes back-and-forth through the mail, a new album was born called “Sitting In The Dark.” It was self-financed and released by the band in 2011.

The thing that immediately catches your eye when looking at the CD is the album cover. It has a picture of someone either suffering, screaming, or both while wearing a straight-jacket in a very dark room. Indeed this is not another cliché ridden, sword and sorcery based, fantasy album cover. The Deathmask logo has also been redone for the new millennium. The initial impression that one might get when looking at the album cover might be that the band is a nu-metal band, but don’t let the cover fool you. The album is a tour-de-force of medieval riffery with more than its share of nods to the old-school, particularly Sabbath, Priest or even classic thrash. The album starts off with an air raid siren and the song “Time Of The Signs,” which is straight-ahead and speedy with razor-sharp riffing. The topic of this song seems more pertinent in today’s world, a world obsessed with the Y2K bug, the Mayan calendar, or any prophetic predictions of the apocalypse. Immediately, anyone familiar with the band’s ’86 debut would also notice a change in Steve Michael’s vocal approach. Michaels seems no longer preoccupied with trying to hit those high pitched screams, but has settled into a sullen and raspy tone without taking anything away from his aggressive delivery. The next song, “It’s In You” has an infectious riff, one that will bury itself in your head and refuse to leave. The song is also hypnotizing in the fact that the lyrics are repeated almost as a mantra throughout the song. There is a musical Anaphora prevalent where words are repeated to provide emphasis. It then builds to a ripping and memorable guitar solo. The song “Sitting In The Dark” has a sharp and chugging riff, and parts in the break-down lend credence to the fact that guitarist, Benny Ransom has an obvious love for all things Sabbath. The song “More” again uses the repetition of words for emphasis, and discusses the topic of excess. “Contrary Mary” chronicles a tale of a co-dependent relationship. All of these tales are told within the confines of a classic metal delivery with a slight update in sound to stay relevant within a modern musical landscape. “Driving Blind” is an unreleased older song that has been resurrected for inclusion on the disc. This song is clearly the closest, in pacing and approach, to the classic sound of “Split The Atom.” The song "Real Pain" is a doom-laden track that is complete Sabbath worship.  This is extended when a cover of Sabbath’s “Symptom Of The Universe” is added later in the album for good measure. The CD then finishes with the recording of an older track “Season Of Hatred.” This track was written by Michaels in a late 80s version of Savage Choir. The band returned to the Savage Choir moniker, and the song was to be included on an album that was never released. The song now springs forth as an aggressive beast to close out this disc.

All in all this is a solid comeback album by an obviously hungry group of metal veterans. It hits hard, is extremely catchy, and at times mesmerizes the listener. There are infectious grooves (Mike Muir or Suicidal reference not intended) contained herein. It’s actually a shame that some major label didn’t move in to give this release a home. With the current state of the economy, I guess there just aren’t that many labels looking to release quality metal. However, factory pressed discs of this release are being sold by CD Baby (http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/deathmask22). So go to the website now, and do yourself a favor by ordering a copy of this modern classic. Also, be prepared as the band are gearing up for some live shows in 2012/2013.  If you're not careful, you may catch them ripping up your town.

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