Only the Dead See the End of the War

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Acrassicauda managed to escape their war-torn homeland with some talent and a hell of a PR hook. This, their debut four-song EP, isn't much different from the work of a zillion young U.S. or European bands; it's the sum of their influences, with a few glimmers of originality here and there. Middle Eastern rhythms and vocal chanting crop up, notably on "Garden of Stones" (which also features a coiled-snake guitar solo from Tony Aziz), and "Massacre" begins with a brief spoken prelude in Arabic. But there's more Metallica and Testament (whose guitarist, Alex Skolnick, produced the record) here than anything else. Vocalist Faisal Talal has a pretty evocative and multi-dimensional voice -- he can shift from clean singing to a clenched-throat roar that recalls Lair of the Minotaur's Steven Rathbone, and the guitar riffs are loaded with '80s thrash crunch. These guys are classicists. (In a possibly unintentional tribute to Metallica, Acrassicauda's drummer, Marwan Riyak, is the weak link -- he always seems to be slightly lagging, and never throws anything truly complex or intricate into the mix.) They throw a few slightly more modern touches into the EP's final track; "The Unknown" features slightly more downtuned, minimal riffing during the verses, and Talal tries on a brink-of-madness vocal in the style of Slipknot's Corey Taylor, while his bandmates deliver gang shouts on the thrashy chorus.

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