Despite many of their peers not overthinking, or perhaps considering at all, their pedestrian approach to early Kreator influenced blackened death/thrash metal Belgium based quartet Slaughter Messiah have spent over a decade developing strong personal station and an unconquerable sound. They’ve proven themselves more than worthy of producing a full-length for the ages with, ‘Cursed to the Pyre’. Their debut album may present itself as an uncomplicated thing, a well known niche of extreme thrash forged with respect for the old masters and agreed-upon classics but, these Namur entrenched fellowes quickly separate themselves from the crowd when given the rapt attention they deserve. Psychically gifted with knowledge of the ancient art of the riff but willing to pull from the depths of Hell for atmosphere and fiery violence alike, Slaughter Messiah could potentially convince the old school thrash head that ‘new’ but not modern music can be just as viable when sourced responsibly from the spirit of old.
The tentacles of ‘Pleasure to Kill’ and ‘Terrible Certainty’ have influenced every aspect of extreme metal in some fashion, arguably a dynamic point of generation for black and death metal impetus since release, but how often does that old machine end up plainly plagiarized rather than taken as key inspiration? There is a meaningful difference between the spirit of old touching a band like Morbid Saint or Massacra and a kid-thrasher changing one note in the main riff to “Riot of Violence” and calling it his own. Slaughter Messiah are at least conscious of this as their sound pulls in the best elements of Nifelheim, early Slayer, and the previously mentioned records in creation of their own sound. Vocals are moderately rasped with clarity enough to speak through waves of blackened thrash and some stoic punches of ‘The Nocturnal Silence’-worthy riff spikes, as conscious of ‘Hell Awaits’ as contemporaries Nocturnal Witch, Sacrilegia and Slutvomit while still capable of whipping through a pure death/thrash tirade or conjuring a convincing bit of black/death. This isn’t just a black/thrash band to tip your hat at, as much as I’d have been happy with just a rip through a greatest hits of German thrash, there is much more to the infernal rage of Slaughter Messiah.
Much of the enthusiasm I’d try to convey here stems from finding this band sharp in the past but never seeing this much of a vision coming from ’em. Their ‘Putrid Invokation‘ (2014) EP had the right stuff in terms of just bashing out some excellent riffs but there was no indication that they could pull off a song like “Pyre” which is just an inch short of fitting in on a record like ‘Nifelheim‘ or ‘Hellfire’s Dominion’. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a true mixture of black metal and black/thrash metal as much since Nocturnal Witch‘s record last year but what’d make ‘Cursed to the Pyre’ even more remarkable comes with their infusion of some death metal along the way. Sure, like I’d implied there is maybe a hint of early Necrophobic within at best but they’ve connected the dots between an ultimate sub-genre trifecta with those elevated tri-tone Slayer-isms that are so often missing from extreme metal language today. “Pouring Chaos” alongside “Hideous Affliction” showcase this storm of Morbid Saint snarls (well, think Schmier too), slickly needled ‘old school’ death/thrash guitar work, and heavy rips into early second wave Swedish black metal evil — Serving more than just good taste and good riffs while giving Slaughter Messiah a foil to write spectacular, murderous blackened death/thrash songs with.
I haven’t been able to put this record down for several weeks. Not only because it is so rare to find a meaningful application of black, death, and thrash metal history with any care applied to the actual songs but for its reverence to the moderately clear influences that drive the experience. On top of that, the guitar sound is an obsidian knife, a glassy whip of overdriven power that sits at just the right level for a ‘riff’ album while remaining capable of swings between sub-genre on the fly. This is no small feat and finding that best level of sound design might be the most unexpected point of professionalism I could note for this debut. As much as I’d like to find some deeper tunnels into meaning and inspiration in writing about Slaughter Messiah the appeal of a record like ‘Cursed to the Pyre’ comes uncomplicated from the realms of tradition and the elevation of very refined taste in the classics — It rips, riffs, and hasn’t done its job if you aren’t banging your head along with it. High recommendation.
High recommendation. 4.0/5.0
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