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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Usurper

Twilight Dominion

Review by Mike Korn

No one can deny there's a certain amount of cheesiness in heavy metal. That's part of its charm. And that's part of what makes Chicago's Usurper so great. They don't flee or evade the more outrageous elements of metal's past - they embrace it. Plus, they also understand what made 80's bands like Celtic Frost, Venom and Possessed work, and they put that knowledge to good use.

"Twilight Dominion" sees Usurper at their spike-encrusted, leather-brandishing best. It's a loving tribute to the glories of 80's black and thrash metal, covering most aspects of those particular genres. The material ranges from insane ravaging speed to morbid Sabbath-like plod to some surprisingly catchy and melodic numbers. Nothing here acknowledges current styles of extreme metal. These dudes know what they are good at and do not deviate from their game plan.

Helping to make the album enjoyable is the excellent production of Neil Kernon, who cut his teeth on Queensryche but who now seems to be veering more towards extreme bands like Usurper. Kernon catches all the power and rage in the material, but retains the clarity for which he's become known. He definitely kicks the band up a notch. And though you could never say Usurper is a brilliant band, they are definitely an essential one, because they remind us of a time when it was a matter of pride to be a metalhead!

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2003 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Metal Lust
You get the feeling this won't be a Creed album when the first track kicks into gear with its morbid, pulsing riffs. The constant "hey"'s and gang-chants of "Metal Lust! Metal Lust!" are corny, to be sure, but take delight in the ripping guitar solo and pounding drums.
The Struggle of Tyrants
This is a pretty grim piece of sludge metal, slower than "Metal Lust" and surging along tank-like. It's reminiscent of stuff from their "Skeletal Seasons" effort.
The She-Devil
Here's a fast and thrashing number featuring some of The General's most gruesome vocals and some speedy, black metal style riffing on the chorus.
Lycanthropic
I wasn't too impressed by this plodding cut. It waffles around in a mid-paced mode, never managing to work up much steam. However, the end does offer us one of those hilarious echoing "Ungh!" chants Usurper does so well.
I Am Usurper
This is a great catchy tune with a real powerful tribal feeling to its riffing. This is a track that almost forces you to "fist-bang" and yell "Die! Die!" along with the General.
Golem
The band shows that they can play complex and technical material as well as anthems with this track. It starts out with an epic, semi-Arabic feel and in fact, the acoustic guitar emphasizes that feeling. It then mutates into a real frantic scorcher featuring numerous riff changes and some killer solos from new guy Carcass Chris. This is one of the best tracks on the album.
The Descent
Hammering thrash kicks this one off in almost Slayerish mode as the General unleashes an ungodly scream, and thrash is pretty much where this one stays for the duration.
Utopian Nightmare
The rip-off of Sabbath's "Children of the Grave" that starts this tune is unforgivable! If I had never heard that Sabbath classic before, I'd say this was pretty decent, but some thefts are just too blatant to ignore.
Invincible Warlords
There's a pretty strong black metal feeling to this, including the wildly screeching vocals. It's fast and primitive and has just a hint of Darkthrone to it.
Vatican Time Machine
I simply can't believe how completely catchy this song is! The rolling mid-paced riff is so basic but so classic! The track actually has a feeling of a much heavier Ozzy to it. This is dangerously addictive!

The Oath of Silence
This is the epic "power metal" song on "Twilight Dominion" and it kills! Necromancer's galloping bass has more than a hint of Iron Maiden to it, but the song is much, much thicker and heavier! It has tremendous riffing and there's an awesome guitar solo that's like a trip back in time to the late 80's. Add in "Lord of the Rings" lyrics, and you've got yourself a winner!

Perpetual Twilight
Squealing and squalling feedback introduces this brooding slab of doom-tinged metal. It is very crushing and claustrophobic, again sounding like something from "Skeletal Season". The chorus is brutal, with General bellowing like a dinosaur in agony.

 
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