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Sudden Death – Monolith Of Sorrow – Album Review

For fans of Cannibal Corpse, Obituary & Death.

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Everything about Sudden Death takes you back to a time when having a visceral album cover and a badass sample as an intro was almost as important at the music itself. The whole package and vibe of the third album by these Italian Death Metal diehards screams ‘old school’! Looking at the cover of Monolith of Sorrow, it makes us feel like going out tape trading, making handmade flyers on a photocopier and doing a shitty gig in some club where the lighting rig has a 50:50 chance of collapsing and crushing us.

Just to be clear: that’s good thing.

On the other hand, labelling music ‘old school’ is often just a by-word for ‘can’t play’, ‘can’t write songs’ and ‘don’t have much musical ambition’. In short, we were fully prepared for Monolith of Sorrow to be either an unmitigated pleasure or a real chore. They claim to be one of the longest active Death Metal bands in Italy, yet Sudden Death’s history reads like a catalogue of line-up problems and missed opportunities. They’ve had some good support slots with the likes of Brutal Truth and Napalm Death over the years, but with only three albums since 1998 – none of which we’ve heard – they have a lot to prove besides their advancing age.

Whatever the backstory,  just thirty seconds into “The New Strategy Of Terror”, it’s clear a good time is being had by all. Once past the suitably badass A Nightmare On Elm Street intro we are hit with a sleazy undulating riff followed by the kind of guttural vocalisation that tells you exactly what kind of party you’ve stumbled into; one where Symphonies-era Carcass, Leprosy-era Death and Cannibal Corpse are all fighting over the turntable and arguing about who’s next on the beer bong! The build-up of Monolith of Sorrow is handled with skill, the vocalist refusing to rip black the gore-stained curtain and reveal himself before “Blood Wings”. When he does, he’s tight with good diction – brutal but not so guttural as to be completely indecipherable – pretty impressive for someone who doesn’t speak English as a first language. The song doesn’t outstay it’s welcome, quickly being silenced by yet another ominous horror sample; Jeepers Creepers this time round.

By the time “Cancer Of A World Condemned To Die” crashes in, we are wearing big smiles but there’s no quarter given as the title track, followed by “Toxic Devourment“, hit hard; replete with creaking pick scrapes and stylish natural harmonics. As the songs pass, the riffs stay memorable and catchy, the dynamic shifts frequent. There are awesome screamed backing vocals and tastefully deployed spatial effects to keep the attention of the listener, lots is going on but everything is distinct. In truth, Sudden Death are cleaner and more precise than many of the bands they emulate but it’s on the ridiculously titled, “Inhuman Lycanthropic Lust” that the band really go the extra mile trying to impress us with what sounds like a musical grand tour of the Death Metal greats. They bounce from Schuldiner-esque drilling via a succession of fantastic riffs, finally crash-landing on an Obituary-style breakdown,  a moment that John Tardy would be proud of; you’ll know it when you hear it!

Overall, the production is standard digital stuff, neat enough and while he guitar tone is nice and the drums cut through, they don’t exactly smash your face in. As is often the case in Death Metal, the bass is pretty much lost but when resources are limited, you can’t have everything! If there is an area that Sudden Death lose their edge, it’s in the lead guitar department. While the guy plays well enough, there are amateurish edges to some of the solos and his modal vocabulary is strictly limited; a shame when widdle is to the fore as much as it is here. Sadly, the bar is set very high for metal guitarists these days.

Obviously these guys are indebted to Cannibal Corpse but with a steady line up and a bit of support behind them, they’d have the potential to fully inhabit their own identity. Despite wearing their influences on their sleeve, they do have the ability to stand out and in Death Metal, that is key. Monolith of Sorrow won’t win any prizes for originality – it isn’t trying to – but it does display an infectious enthusiasm for the Death Metal genre. Nothing is lazy, everything is presented with passion and conviction and at the end of the day, who could ask for more? 7/10

About Stuart Bell (55 Articles)
I was born in 1975 with a pile of Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple vinyl next to my cot. I ate off a sheet of ply-board propped up between two Marshall cabs and shortly after I learned to read and write I learned the E minor chord and the pentatonic scale. One day my Dad bought me Iron Maiden's first album. Metallica's Ride the Lightning followed. Then, things got serious. I have held almost every rank in the Army of Heavy Metal: Fan, drunk fan, roadie, guitarist, producer and label scout. My Wife knows what Mastodon's Crack The Skye is about and my child can play Breaking the Law on piano. Go figure.

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