Vital Remains - Icons of Evil (Century Media Records) - Back
Vital Remains have been lurking on the fringes of the underground since 1989. They have always held a certain cult status in death metal circles, but with their previous two albums "Dawn of The Apocalypse" and "Dechristianize" the band really started to take things to the next level. "Icons of Evil" is very much in the same vein as Vital Remains other recent works, unleashing yet another furious maelstrom of blasphemy and bludgeoning.

In typical Vital Remains fashion, all but one of the ten songs (Yngwie cover Disciples of Hell) is over six minutes long, with three of them toping the eight-minute mark. For most death metal bands, writing songs of this length simply would not work, but in Vital Remains case it not only works but is a strong point. Toney Lazaro has the rare ability to make an eight minute death metal song feel like it is only four or five minutes long. Without exception, the songs on "Icons of Evil" are built on a solid foundation of blast beat driven drumming and fast, rhythmic guitar riffs. Many death mental bands would throw a few solos and some growls over that foundation and call it a day. Not Vital Remains, they take things to a whole different level by mixing melodic guitar parts with the rest of the chaos, a trait that adds to the uniqueness of their sound. In addition to the melodic guitar work, the solos are well placed and really add to the compositions. Although, Toney Lazaro should be praised for his abilities as a song writer, it is Dave Suzuki’s talent as both a guitar player and drummer that really brings these songs to life. Both of these guys are highly underrated musicians in the death mental scene, and Suzuki’s level of talent with two very different instruments is almost unheard of on this side of the Atlantic. Glenn Benton turns in an excellent vocal performance, accenting his usual demonic growl with an occasional more raspy shriek, nothing outside the box here but none the less, the vocals are very well done.

All told, "Icons of Evil" is an outstanding death metal album with no glaring flaws. I do have a couple of very minor complaints. First, while I love the song writing, I think "Icons of Evil" could benefit from an atypical song or two mixed into the middle of the album. The songs tend to be structure similarly and there are a hell of a lot of blastbeats being thrown around. In my opinion, one or two songs that focus more on the slow to mid paced material that shows up in bits throughout the album would have added a striking contrast to the other songs and helped them stand out from each other a bit more. Second, "Icons of Evil" is almost too similar to "Dechristianize". Not that it’s really a bad thing, as both albums are excellent but it would have been nice to see just a little more variation between the two.

Vital Remains stand out among their peers as a band that has developed a distinct sound in a genre where gaining separation from the pack has become increasingly difficult. "Icons of Evil" is an example an extremely talented and unique death metal band at the absolute top of their game. This album is a mandatory purchase of all death metal fans.

Rating:
95

Reviewed By: Garett F.