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Vital Remains - Icons of Evil Review

by Matt Hensch

"This album, hands down, sets the bar for death metal. We think our fans will soon agree without question that this is our Reign in Blood"- Tony Lazaro of Vital Remains

Quite a bold statement, isn't it? I mean for Mr. Lazaro to compare one of his works with Slayer's masterpiece is certainly a gutsy claim, but is he actually serious? After further speculation, Vital Remains has been often blessed with pleasant records since 1992, but the barrier between greatness and perfection always seemed to be blocked by a tiny complication of some sort. The death metal outfit progressively became more consistent as time went on, but improvement was still needed in certain areas of their music; however, the corrections have been made, and perfection has finally been reached. Just like Slayer did with Reign in Blood, Vital Remains finally masters everything they've been trying to express with Icons of Evil, which, as Tony said, sets the bar for death metal as we know it.

Dechristianize evolved Vital Remains' appearance into a sturdy formula of blastbeats, fierce riffing, and neoclassical leads that allowed the group to settle on a permanent form. The only complication that emerged from this recipe was the mass repetition of riffs, drum patterns, and other musical characteristics; however, these mistakes are corrected and perfected on Icons of Evil. Any kind of musical redundancy or duplication is simply withdrawn from this album's atmosphere; this kind of freedom permits Dave Suzuki and Tony Lazaro to unleash a flood of flashing riffs, striking mid-paced sections, and beautiful neoclassical solos without mirroring any familiar parts. Nearly all the songs continue the Vital Remains tradition of passing the six minute marker, but the routine process is mastered by adding multiple tempo changes in each track. All nine tunes feature separate musical arrangements, but you can expect alternating intervals of brutal death metal, stellar sections of intermediate riffing, and prime soloing efforts throughout each slice of material. Icons of Evil is much like a cyborg; it has all the healthy parts of Dechristianize with some extra gadgets applied for better musical quality.

Icons of Evil is unconditionally fantastic, but the creators of this masterpiece prove themselves to be some of the most talented and intelligent musicians known to death metal. Beside Glen Benton on vocals, Dave Suzuki and Tony Lazaro were the only folks involved with the writing and recording stages of this disc. Lazaro's classic writing style is certainly a defining quality of Vital Remains' music, because of his tendency to focus death metal elements while adding in dashes of melody and other components important to the sound of Icons of Evil. His creativity begins to shine with the brilliant decision to figure acoustic solos in "Reborn...The Upheaval of Nihility," and the diverse chord progression throughout "Hammer down the Nails." These special attachments are only scratching the surface of Lazaro's poetic display of death metal on this incredible record.

There are many talented musicians involved with the metal scene, but I'll be damned if any of them could top Dave Suzuki. When this CD was recorded, Suzuki played every drum beat, every bass line, every riff, and every solo. Dave is far from a pushover though; he sounds very tight when shredding, and even more so when drumming. The fills and spontaneous tom rolls he brings forth are simply insane, yet he's able to switch into a normal pace without messing up the percussion rhythm. When the day ends, Lazaro and Suzuki stand as one of metal's most powerful teams. Hell, I'm daring to say Suzuki and Larzaro are undoubtedly the greatest death metal duo the world will ever see.

Well, it appears Tony was right about his little comparison with Reign in Blood and Icons of Evil. Throughout the existence of Vital Remains, there have been several noteworthy releases, but Icons of Evil unquestionably tops the list. This here isn't just a perfect record, but a lesson in death metal as it was meant to be taught. Maybe we should listen to Tony more often!

1. Where is Your God Now
2. Icons of Evil
3. Scorned
4. Born To Rape The World
5. Reborn...The Upheaval of Nihility
6. Hammer Down The Nails
7. Sharpnel Embedded Flesh
8. 'Til Death
9. In Infamy
10. Disciples of Hell

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Vital Remains - Icons of Evil


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