Rigor Mortis’ debut came around in a time when the Thrash genre found itself at a sort of standstill. In 1988, plenty of great Thrash albums were being released, but after albums like Reign In Blood and Pleasure To Kill pushed the scene into new, visceral and unbridled directions, it became clear that Thrash was a style that was essentially doomed to be plagued by bands that would attempt to clone and top said classics, but that would rarely ever succeed. And then came Rigor Mortis. Though they didn’t exactly turn the scene on its greasy, drunken head, they provided an extremely heavy, technical, and fresh take on a genre that to this day has rarely been matched in style and remains thoroughly original and entertaining.
Rigor Mortis’ self-titled album offers a unique, almost psychedelic take on their genre of choice that is, in my opinion, one of the best debut albums of all time. Released on Capitol Records (a rarity for an Extreme Metal band) in 1988, Rigor Mortis is fast as hell, with an original, blisteringly quick tremolo picking style from Mike Scaccia (Says bassist Casey Orr: “Trying to keep up with him feels like running down a steep set of stairs too fast, knowing you’re going to trip and end up at the bottom in a broken heap!”), intimidating, homicidal vocals from Bruce Corbitt, incredibly fast and tight drumming from Harden Harrison, and… Get this… COMPLETELY audible bass from Casey Orr! As Rigor Mortis has only one guitar player that is always alternating between high-end lead tremolo riffs and light-speed solos, Orr is left to make up the rhythm section, which sounds incredibly weird yet wonderful when Scaccia is busy shredding it up. It gives the band a minimal, albeit technical and slightly progressive sound with just a hint of Death Metal that I’ve never heard anything like before or since.
The production here is almost as offbeat as the music itself; all of the components have a reverberating, echoing quality to them that’s a tad eerie, and sounds like something that would be more suitable on a glam metal album than a Thrash LP like this one. Why not many other bands have taken this approach, I do not know, as it works amazingly (and surprisingly) well with Rigor Mortis, but maybe that’s only because of the unique musical and lyrical style. All of the songs are horror-movie or fantasy themed, a nice breath of fresh air from songs about pointless acts of evil and murder and pseudo-political bullshit. A lot of it has a Iron Maiden feel, in the way the songs actually tell stories rather than random acts of violence. They’re often told with a dry, irresistible sense of humor; How could you not love morbidly hilarious lyrics like this?
I have this knife
As for the music itself, there isn’t a bad song in the bunch on Rigor Mortis. All of them feature Scaccia’s trademark widdly tremolo riffing, blazing an apocalyptic trail of fire as Harrison pounds away at the skins frantically in an attempt to keep up. One thing I always found interesting about Scaccia’s playing style is that he never, ever uses palm muting. No palm muting on a Thrash Metal album? HERESY! But no worries; Mike uses this style to his advantage to create some damn frantic riffs that will have you snapping your neck from his breakneck playing speed. If you haven’t listened to this album yet, then you’re seriously missing out on some amazing moments. Whether it be the especially speedy riffing of Welcome To Your Funeral, Demons, and Shroud Of Gloom (I shit you not, I honestly feel like I should be wearing a seat belt while listening to Rigor Mortis), the unbridled aggression of Condemned To Hell, Die In Pain, and Re-Animator, or the brilliant weirdness of tracks like Wizard Of Gore, with its cheesy bass intro, or Slow Death, featuring some laugh - inducing screams (Perhaps the band is mocking Tom Araya?). Bodily Dismemberment is a stand – alone highlight as the slowest song on the album, but also one of the most memorable with classic lyrics about a murder told from the ax killer’s point of view.
Rigor Mortis’ debut, if you haven’t figured it out by now, is an absolutely essential piece of 80’s Thrash Metal that needs to be heard to be believed. It’s a bit difficult to get into - it took me over six months to fully appreciate it – but once you do, you’ll have an endlessly entertaining piece of Thrash Metal that you’ll listen to on a daily basis for quite a long time. They don’t make ‘em like this anymore, my friends.
Killing Songs :
|Kyle quoted CLASSIC|
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