Vital Remains

Horrors of Hell

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Although they've often languished in the shadow of more famous satanically inspired death metal bands like Morbid Angel and Deicide, Vital Remains have gradually managed to carve out a healthy underground career for themselves, despite their rather isolated home base in Providence, RI. And it's into the dark, uncharted bowels of that state's rinky-dink studios (most frequently the curiously named Atonal Studios -- oh, the irony!) circa 1989-1991 that 2006's Horrors of Hell transports willing listeners, by collecting 13 tracks from three separate demos laying the foundation of the Vital Remains story. Both sides of 1991's horrendously produced (but doubly influential to tape traders because of it) Black Mass single initiate this blasphemous ritual with the descriptively macabre tandem of "Of Pure Unholyness" and "Frozen Terror" -- both reminiscent of early, Morbid Visions-era Sepultura and, of course, Morbid Angel. By comparison, the five ensuing recordings from the previous year's Excruciating Pain demo almost sound overly produced. As evidenced by the likes of "Human Sacrifice" and "Nocturnal Blasphemy," they are also distinctly thrashier and slightly more melodic in general approach -- not unlike Dark Angel, Sadus, and Slayer, whose elemental teachings are blatantly splattered all over "Fallen Angels" (listen to the Lombardo-esque hi-hat and freakish Hanneman/King-styled solo runs). Finally, there's 1989's Reduced to Ashes -- Vital Remains' first-ever demo, and arguably the most interesting six tracks of the bunch in light of the extreme metal-collecting community's Bizarro World, less-is-more aesthetic. Here, quality sound and advanced musicianship count for little in the face of improbably primal, incomparably evil, black-tinged death metal akin to San Francisco's Possessed (see Vital Remains' outrageous namesake tune), Brazil's Sarcofago and Vulcano ("Smoldering Death," "Reduced to Ashes," etc.), and, in the case of the amusingly zombie-themed "More Brains," proto-death gore merchants Necrophagia. In sum: many forms of primitive metallic violence collide within Horrors of Hell, which will offer countless hours of Satan-worshipping fun for serious Vital Remains fans, but maybe not the casual death metal fan just looking for a taste of the band.

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