Black Reign

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Despite amassing a genuine Rolodex of former bandmembers (almost a dozen at last count) within their first decade of existence, Östersund, Sweden's Sanctification had only one album to show for it -- 2003's Misanthropic Salvation -- until the release of this sophomore effort, Black Reign, in 2009 (which was notably produced by Peter Tagtgren and mixed by Dan Swanö, incidentally). Pure pedigree and friends in high places can only get you out the studio door, however, and when thrust before the ears of the general populace and unforgiving critics (hey there, nice to meet you!), Sanctification's latest assault on Christianity by way of inexorably brutal death metal (think Krisiun, Aeon, Immolation) yields some mixed results. Not surprisingly, the strongest material is that which affords even the smallest reprieve from the reigning eruption of guttural croaks, sludgy guitars, and machine-gun drums (see "Thirst for Blood" "Flesh, Bone and Skin," and the title track) but these are in slightly shorter supply here than their ruthlessly unrelenting and therefore less distinctive counterparts. And although there's certainly an audience for whom this particular approach never gets tiresome, Sanctification are following in a few too many footsteps to get a free pass based on originality -- no matter how well they wage battle within the bounds of their chosen arena.

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