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Num Skull - Ritually Abused (Reissue)

by Matt Hensch

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We hear the term 'brutal' used ad nauseam among the death metal and deathcore crowds. This is due to the word's definition having mostly been twisted out of true. Brutal, according to stuff, refers to the savage, the cold-blooded, the ruthlessly harsh.

Wrong: Those guttural oinks and tinny blast beats clicking over and over again sure are brutal LOL! #swag XD :P <3

Right: Num Skull's "Ritually Abused" is brutal.

I've had the pleasure of experiencing all sorts of metal subgenres and styles, but "Ritually Abused" is insane. Morbid Saint and Demolition Hammer instantly come to mind, both of which are coincidentally similar in sound and style to the nonoperational Num Skull. The band's fossilized remains are spotted by demos and minor splits, although they did make three full-length records (one of which was never released properly, apparently). "Ritually Abused" marked the debut of Num Skull's short run, born in 1988. For a period when thrash was alive and death metal's stillborn corpse had been wiggling its way out into the world, "Ritually Abused" is a child of its time. The primitive and developed aesthetics of both sounds are massive and translated clearly, leading to a spot among the most punishing albums ever, no debate.

Part of the allure of classic albums/masterpieces is that they usually make their own mark upon a style, or at least provide a sense that the game has been, indeed, changed. But "Ritually Abused" is completely lacking in this sentiment; it's a thrash/death metal album showing influence from Possessed, Kreator, Slayer, Sodom, keep the list going. Nothing remotely original beyond its basic description, in sum. Num Skull, however, took the intensity of the aforementioned bands, created unparalleled levels of pulverization, and effectively out-violenced even the most ruthless acts of their time and beyond. They sound like an embodiment of viciousness, charging forth at breakneck speeds played with matchless precision and medial-tempo parts that are heavier than ten of the heaviest things you can envision.

Sound quality is the winning ticket for "Ritually Abused." These guitars bite with a razor-sharp tone, much like that found on Morbid Saint's "Spectrum of Death." Slashing riffs scorching at a million miles an hour sound like bombs going off, while underneath the bass is plucking and grinding manically. The drums are wild and chaotic-fills left and right and up-tempo patterns so hectic they debatably come off as disordered. I'm not sure how to even analytically describe the vocals. This guy, Skip McGullam, sounds like he swallowed razor blades ten minutes before vocal tracking and tried shouting as blood and gore spewed out of his mouth. Is he growling? Rasping? Trying to snarl while he drinks gasoline? I don't have a clue.

I could sit here and call "Ritually Abused" the brutalist thing ever until my knuckles wither, but the intensity wouldn't mean a rat's ass had the dudes of Num Skull not penned excellent riffs and known the ins and outs of this style. Little bits of the death metal sound appear in the Possessed-like guitar sequences and nonstop calamity of the drums continuously pounding in frenzied rhythms. The energy in these numbers is unmatched; the voltage among the collective performance feels like the work of a sixth member behind the scenes. Morbid Saint-esque thrash/death metal with prime technical precision and insane Slayer-styled leads, harsh enough to both drain "Spectrum of Death" and give Kerry King anal fissures.

Num Skull did not last much longer, however. In 1991 came "Future - Our Terror," though supposedly never properly released, and thus mired by limited distribution. Another record was made in 1996-a Cannibal Corpse-flavored death metal effort seasoned like "Tombs of the Mutilated" called "When Suffering Comes"-before Num Skull's run went down the drain. "Ritually Abused" is, nevertheless, a wonderful gem of this era, flirting on the cusp with extremer elements while beating a fair number of legendary bands at their own game. It really peels my potatoes that "Ritually Abused" and Num Skull have been left in the void of obscurity, nameless and foreign to most. Do yourself a favor and give "Ritually Abused" a shot, right now. It's not how we start, but how we finish, and I'm sure metal enthusiasts will give "Ritually Abused" a spin and realize immediately just why Num Skull had the right idea.

Get your copy here.

Num Skull - Ritually Abused (Reissue)
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