Vital Remains - Icons of Evil
Century Media
Epic Death Metal
10 songs (67:19)
Release year: 2007
Vital Remains, Century Media
Reviewed by Dylan
Album of the month
2003’s Dechristianize was somewhat of a landmark for Vital Remains. Being their first album to feature Deicide frontman Glen Benton behind the mic, the album was a fantastic display in crafting epic songs, whilst infusing huge amounts of brutality, laced with just the right amount of melody to keep things stuck in your head; thanks in no small part to Tony Lazaro and the immensely talented guitarist / bassist / drummer, David Suzuki. Benton’s guttural vocal performance on that album pushed the intensity into the stratosphere, and was better than anything he had done with Deicide up to that point. So now, Icons of Evil has been released upon the world, and if one things it’s evident, it’s the fact that Vital Remains was pleased with the sound they crafted on Dechrisitanize and now wish to perfect it.

For the uninitiated, Vital Remains has a sound that borrows from many of the greats in the death metal scene. Take the ceaseless intensity of Hate Eternal, the blasphemous anger of Deicide, the sinister melodicism of Behemoth, and the epic songwriting style of Nile, and you have a rough idea of what Vital Remains is all about. Beginning with a sound bite from Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ, the sounds of a certain savior getting whipped to death set an ominous tone for the onslaught that is about to come. Opening in a way very similar to Dechristianize, the second track is the first real song (and also bears the same name as the album itself), and begins with Benton vehemently asking “Where is your god now?!”. Then, as you can expect, all hell breaks loose. Suzuki blasts his drums into oblivion, and with Larzo, churns out some razor sharp riffs. Combine this with an excellent death metal growl from Benton, a breakdown as intricate as it is killer about one minute through the song, ripping solos, and an ever evolving song structure, and you have an excellent opening song.

Speaking of which, each one is quite long, with the shortest being 4:54, and the longest clocking in at just over 9 minutes. Playing blistering death metal for over an hour is a risky endeavor, for the band is in danger of either outstaying their welcome and boring the listener to death, or not managing to craft a memorable song and end up confusing the listener. Luckily, Vital Remains knows this and knows just when it is the right time to blast things to hell, to combine instrumental groove with a great vocal pattern, and to add in a beautiful (in an evil sort of way) lead melody. Songs like Born to Rape The World and Til Death are like roller coasters through hell, exemplifying the band’s strengths all within the same composition; quite an impressive feat considering these guys are strong in so many areas. Even the resident cover song of the album, Yngwie Malmsteen’s Disciple of Hell manages to fit in the overall flow of the album, and is an interesting glimpse into what Yngwie might have sounded like, should he have chosen to have been a little more brutal.

Things get very fast and quite complicated, but not in the mind-numbingly technical style that bands like Cryptopsy and the more modern Beneath The Massacre have been known to do. With all the tempo changes, varied riffs, and overall depth to the album, a weak production job could easily screw things up. While Dechristianize wasn’t exactly mixed poorly, there was a noticeable lack of low end in the guitars and drums. However, with Eric Rutan in charge of the knob twisting, those areas have improved. He did it with Cannibal Corpse’s Kill, Goatwhore’s A Haunting Curse, and now the overall sound of Icons of Evil has received some well-deserved injections of thickness and clarity.

It’s difficult for bands to be this fast, this heavy, yet this catchy. I found myself humming the killer swept arpeggios that appear in Scorned, air drumming the breakdown in Hammer Down the Nails, and basking in awe during the solos that Suzuki manages to spew out of his fingers. If it wasn’t for Nile’s and Behemoth’s respective albums looming on the horizon, this could already be the best death metal release of 2007. Only time will tell how well it can stack up against the releases from fellow legends in the genre.

Note: Below is a live video for "Born To Rape The World". In time the video may become outdated and fail to play.

Killing Songs :
Dylan quoted 91 / 100
Other albums by Vital Remains that we have reviewed:
Vital Remains - Let Us Pray reviewed by Goat and quoted 89 / 100
Vital Remains - Dechristianize reviewed by Crims and quoted 88 / 100
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