The danger of re-recording a cult extreme metal classic with modern production techniques lies within the act of unveiling the nostalgia of old heads and doubly so for the latecomers who might’ve only clung to those releases for their ‘old school’ sound. There is a long history of cheapening thrash classics in this manor (Testament, Exodus, Sodom, Flotsam & Jetsam, Destruction, etc.) but it is very occasionally done with taste and sometimes good reason such as licensing costs, royalty issues, a shitty recording situation, or in the case of Italian blackened thrashers Necrodeath to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary if their second full-length ‘Fragments of Insanity’ (1989) in tandem with the twentieth anniversary of their ‘comeback’ record ‘Mater of All Evil’ (1999). The reason for the re-recording matters little if the execution isn’t worthy and while I will argue that I don’t like the choice of cover art, Necrodeath have absolutely made a fantastic and incredibly respectful revision of ‘Fragments of Insanity’ with ‘Defragments of Insanity’.
If you love Slayer, Sepultura, and Kreator up ’til about 1990 then you’ll love (or already might love in hindsight) ‘Fragments of Insanity’ and Necrodeath were always pretty clear about those influences on this second album. They’d been hooked up with Metal Master records for that second album by A.C. Wild (Bulldozer) after a moderate but encouraging response to ‘The Shining Pentagram’ (1986) demo and debut full-length ‘Into the Macabre’ (1987) but like many persistent groups today (Exumer, for example) they were seen as a bit too close to their influences. For a Genoa, Italy band to sound this dark and extreme was actually a big deal and in hindsight a lot of thrashers were very fucking stuck up the world over in the mid-to-late 80’s as the need to protect insular ‘scenes’ from outsiders kept things competitive. It is funny to think about today where anyone being competitive today might not have yet realized that you don’t make modern music money punching your friends in the balls and cutting their throats. But, I digress! All that I’m saying is that Necrodeath were average on the world stage but an incredible beginning for extreme thrash in Italy at the time of their formation. ‘Fragments of Insanity’ still fuckin’ rips, especially if you love ‘Schizophrenia’ and ‘Terrible Certainty’.
Nobody cared when ‘Fragments of Insanity’ released, founder Marco “Peso” Pesenti co-founded progressive death metal band Sadist in 1990 and he’d eventually move on as that band became freakish circus music with ‘Tribe’ (1995). If you were there when Necrodeath reformed it was only notable because they returned with style and a compelling blackened thrash metal sound. They weren’t going pure retro thrash but updating their old sound and creating a modern take on the old ways. I wouldn’t say ‘Mater of All Evil’ was a revolutionary release (think early Dew-Scented but blackened) but for my own trip as a collector of thrash metal that period of time marks when I’d really only begun to seriously collect and seek out classic thrash metal releases. I’d hear ‘Mater of All Evil’ about a week before discovering a bootleg copy of ‘Fragments of Insanity’ and as I will basically buy anything that sounds like early Sepultura and Slayer, it was an instant hit with me. All that I’m really saying thus far is that the album Necrodeath are re-working with ‘Defragments of Insanity’ was good, a bit rough but full of character all the same.
What is remarkable about this re-recording is that it doesn’t attempt to erase those obvious influences and actually injects a sort of dynamic wisdom into pieces that really weren’t all that fast (or varied) to begin with. The moment “Choose Your Death” fires up you might think you’d accidentally put on the first Sadus album for a second as they’re really blistering up their hands in livening up an old 1989 composition that feels atmospheric compared to its re-recording. There is a certain black/thrash style here that isn’t watered down and this is surprising to me as I’ve kept up with Necrodeath over the years and their style has evolved towards something a bit rockish and avant-garde in some sense. There is a fine line between a cash-in record and sustainably produced fan service and thankfully ‘Defragments of Insanity’ appears created with love for the old history of the band and with hope that new fans will appreciate the old days in connection to their evolution over the last 30+ years.
“State of Progressive Annihilation” best showcases the sort of lasting power of these songs and the authentic updating they’ve done with respect for how thrash metal might ideally sound with modern production. The drums are spacious and never claustrophobia inducing, this is typically the biggest mistake as heavily compressed drum sound plagues most modern thrash. The guitars are present but, since ‘Fragments of Insanity’ was written between two complex and interwoven guitar channels they’ve smartly dialed in their presence right in the middle of the mix; This highlights that it is a ‘guitar’ album and the spirited interplay between the two guitars is given a center stage as it was back in 1989. They’ve also included the version of “Eucharistical Sacrifice” that was re-recorded for the release of ‘Black as Pitch’ (2001) and I was impressed that their reinterpretation of ‘Fragments of Insanity’ back in 2001 basically matches their reinterpretation of the rest of the songs here 18 years later. So, yeah oddly enough I can highly recommend this reworking of ‘Fragments of Insanity’ and I very rarely can do so for re-recorded classic thrash albums. For preview I’d say it is important to compare the original versions of the most standout songs with their re-recordings, so try “Thanatoid” first and then my favorite, “State of Progressive Annihilation”.
Spread the wings of death. 4.0/5.0
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