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Usurper - Cryptobeast Review

by Mark Hensch

What can even be said to do a band like Usurper justice? On this, the band's 2005 release and fifth album proper, Usurper does absolutely nothing but rock f**king hard. With ten well-rounded songs of purist, blackened thrash played with the power of true metal, the band flies through necksnapping ode after necksnapping ode to evil, violence, the occult, booze, drugs, women, and metal. Really, this is all the best parts of heavy metal as a genre thrown into a blender and let loose upon the world, the liquid concoction dribbling down and making the mainstream uncomfortable. The question is, how can someone BE uneasy about Usurper? Is it the fact that the band is that evil (really, the lyrics on here are wicked beyond belief) or is it that the thrash metal on offer is so much fun it will make you feel bad about the tons of other acts this band puts to shame with albums like this? I'll drink to any band who can make me headbang AND expand my brain's capacity for random facts at the exact same time.

Take opener "The Bones of My Enemies." Right from the get-go, you get awesome thrash not unlike Venom, Sodom, or something dirty, fast, and rocking like that. The band proceeds to play flaying riffs and thundering, massive percussion, all in honor of the warlike Assyrians who menaced the Middle East in biblical times and before. If you still don't have an idea what you're in for, try this sample lyric: "I destroyed, I demolished, I burned! I took their f**king lives!" The whole album is like that, bloody, joyous, zeal-of-slaughter type war metal. It is fast, messy, epic, and gruesome. That gargantuan breakdown in which the band screeches "WAR!!!!" over and over will have even the staunchest of peaceniks headbanging and throwing haymakers, and holy Jesus must this band be a killer live.

Keeping up the momentum, "Supernatural Killing Spree" is an utterly badass black-metal thrashterpiece, straightforward ground-and-pound about vengeful spirits and murder most foul from beyond the grave. What can I say, it will knock you out of your combat boots.

The band defining athem that is "Kill for Metal" finds vocalist Danny Lawson alternating between diaphram-pumping grunts, banshee shrieks, and his typical, swaggering growls. The song is a fist-pumping circle pit on disc; the music of pure, untainted, headbanging heavy metal.

"Conquest of the Grotesque" has some exceedingly abysmal deep thrash to it, not unlike earlier Celtic Frost. The sinister groove provides an excellent backdrop to a tale of Ireland's horrific, mythological wars between man and monster. The best part about the storyline? You know regardless of victor, you'll get bloody warfare to windmill your neck to.

The instrumental "Ectoplasm" showcases a clean, menacing portion of lush, eerie acoustics and even a wispy lead. Despite being nothing but a mere bridge, it is actually a really strong song and every bit as good as the main event that is the band's bare-knuckle thrash punches.

"Return of the Werewolf" is a lean, slicing piece of meaty riffing, set around the myths of lycanthropy. Werewolves haven't been this utterly badass since Ozzy was last "Barking at the Moon." The crawling death/thrash of "Reptilian" could very well be my favorite track (though this album in general is magnificent), its mammoth sense of plodding sludge mixing well with the thick, mid-tempo thrash. It really does sound like the world's biggest, hungriest alligator coming towards you in a river of murky viscera and death, and if that slow, gnawing break doesn't sound like a gator-roll snapping something's neck, I don't know what does.

"Cryptobeast" is another high peak to ascend, the song kicking off manic screeches and fuzzy guitar wanking. When the band stops building up menacing atmosphere and actually launches into the song proper, you won't believe just how f**king righteous the thrash itself is. Check out that fiery guitar solo, and tell me I'm wrong.

"Wrath of God" is a quick kick to the stones, the brutal, swinging mayhem leading into album closer "Warriors of Iron and Rust (Battalions of the New Millennium)." "Warriors" is actually a remake off 2000's underground classic album Necronemesis, which even had King Diamond himself on vocals for the title track! Regardless of how politically correct is it to remake a song so soon, those track is a real piece of Heaven, replete with dirty bass lines, crystalline drums, jaw-dropping riffs, and utterly unhinged vocals that are amongst the entire album's best yowls, growls, and howls.

To sum things up; if you enjoy heavy metal, in all its guises, get this album. Honestly folks, this one is a must-have. Recalling acts as diverse as Slayer, Celtic Frost, Venom, Sodom, and so forth, this is simplistic, murdering thrash the likes of which are amongst the most underrated on Earth. Like a thrash version of Nile, Usurper take all the best elements of their earlier peers and refine them, playing them with such effortless, wicked talent you can't help but be impressed. A real beast of an album, to be sure. I've been made a true believer by this one peeps. If you like your music loud, fast, heavy, and brutal, check this out.

1. The Bones of My Enemies
2. Supernatural Killing Spree
3. Kill for Metal
4. Conquering the Grotesque
5. Ectoplasm (instrumental track)
6. Return of the Werewolf
7. Reptilian
8. Cryptobeast
9. Wrath of God
10. Warriors of Iron and Rust (Battalions of the New Millennium)

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Usurper - Cryptobeast


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