If "Slaves to the Grave" proves anything at all, it's that Rigor Mortis was something special. Scaccia's frantic riffs piled over Bruce Corbitt's grunts and a rhythm section boasting technical percussion and robust bass lines make a sound that is both concise and to the point. Brutal thrashers in the vein of Morbid Saint like "Flesh for Flies" and "Curse of the Draugr" show clear as day that Rigor Mortis hadn't lost touch with its heritage; this isn't your kiddie-table thrash metal. "Slaves to the Grave" is rabid, throwing a crispy guitar tone down like a slab of meat and charging forth with authority. Scaccia's lead work is excellent, topping even his blazing tremolo picking-the man was an inhuman talent. "Slaves to the Grave" is Rigor Mortis twenty years later; the sound refined, the chemistry the same. There are some bits here that mix up the torture tactics, however.
The serene atmospheric jam latched onto the rump of "Poltergeist," for instance, effortlessly conveys a semblance of horror that mirrors the song's havoc-ridden barbarity while standing worlds away from it, and that ability to naturally twist opposites together is something special, really. "Blood Bath," too, throws in a soloing section brought under the spectrum of this eerie, soundtrack-esque quality as if the divide between atmosphere and mayhem were paper-thin. "Ludus Magnus" is something of a golden egg among the bloody stones-a crawling nine-minute epic employing narrative vocals and frequent snare rolls to usurp the album's hectic aura. It's slow and repetitive, but done so in a way that is wonderfully meticulous and delightfully poignant, yet undeniably under Rigor Mortis' knife; it outshines the rest as far as I'm concerned.
Another vital factor to admire here is the communal standard of top-notch performances. Listening closely to the bass reveals a number of grabbing mechanics exploding underneath Scaccia's bombing guitar tone, showing the sort of care and intricacy in a rhythm section that is often neglected by the herd. Corbitt sounds ravenous spewing out hilariously campy lyrics that have a clear sense of humor shining through his words of gore and horror. "Slaves to the Grave" might not be the ultimate Rigor Mortis album, but it has earned its right to be among the few reunion records out there that exceed expectations in every category. The riffs are excellent, the vocals are ruthless, the sound quality is loud and intense; "Slaves to the Grave" is an all-around killer. The curtains have called; the sendoff is suicidal. Goodnight, sick prince.
Rigor Mortis - Slaves to the Grave
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