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Ex Dementia - "The Red Mass" (CD)

Ex Dementia - "The Red Mass" CD cover image

"The Red Mass" track listing:

1. Shadow In The Chapel
2. Mud And Blood
3. Liquid Flesh
4. The Radiant Ravenous
5. Splattervision: Channel 2
6. Belial The Basket Case
7. The Red Mass
8. Dead! Nude! Dancers!
9. Welcome to Hell

Reviewed by on July 13, 2011

"Ex Dementia has a comfort zone—their own crypt, and they keep it well. All the songs are around the two to three minute range and leave on a high note."

Coming straight out of New Jersey with a dose of grinding, dark, uncompressed, dirty old school death metal is Ex Dementia with its second full length album, “The Red Mass.” Released on the relatively new Philadelphia label Horror Pain Gore Death Productions, the name of the distributor alone should stand as as a fairly acute clue as to what you should expect.

Starting things off on the right disembodied foot is “Shadow in the Chapel,” with its natural, deep, dry vocals and irresistibly catchy chorus. It's simple and straightforward—nothing pretentious. It just rolls like a tank from the horror movie sample onward, and somewhere Kam Lee is flashing a deeply satisfied grin. “Mud and Blood” continues in the same horror death spurting vein, as points for comparison to fellow caveman death metal stalwarts Jungle Rot abound. The title is shouted and repeated in the chorus, and the song thrashes in places with layered vocals from all ranges. Splattering old school blast places the emphasis on feel, not prowess.

Next up is “Liquid Flesh,” a proto-Cannibal Corpse track in which the riffs are given room to breathe and the chords space to ring alongside catchy vocal rhythms. More horror movie samples follow on “The Radiant Ravenous,” and as on many a Mortician album the sample ends up taking up a significant portion of the track. The familiar mid-tempo blast that is a recurring theme throughout the album returns, along with that beloved Obituary gallop all the old schoolers will recognize the second it drops in, but Ex Dementia makes it work with riffs that stick. Why try to move outside the coffin-sized range when it's so comfortable within?

At times the album breaks into death n' roll territory that is unmistakably evil, bouncy, and also formulaic, as on “Belial the Basket Case.” But like a good splatter film, you can't turn away. You know exactly what's coming, and yet you still revel in that sublime instant of endorphins and momentary panic when the big screen bathes the room in in red. By the mid point of the album and the title track, it's clear that Ex Dementia has a comfort zone—their own crypt, and they keep it well. All the songs are around the two to three minute range and leave on a high note.

“Dead! Nude! Dancers!” then channels the sound of “Eaten Back to Life” era Cannibal Corpse with a tale of zombies and strippers. What's not to like? Zombies have been done to death but there's something endearing about this. Maybe it's the fact that it doesn't try to be something it's not or take itself too seriously. It's just a memorable riff, some brutal vocals, a positively evil bounce, and that's it. Closing the album is a cover of Venom's “Welcome to Hell.” It's a throw-in, but a good one, capturing the atmosphere of the original and doing it up death metal style, with an outro sample for good measure. For an album that serves as a worthy tribute to the old school sound, it's only fitting that it ends by raising the flag for those ancient ways of extreme metal that are clung to with cold, dead hands.

Highs: There's nary a lull on the album, just good, solid, unclean death metal fun with high production values from beginning to end.

Lows: It does get formulaic at times, but it doesn't seem like it was ever intended to be anything but.

Bottom line: Just like the label that put out this album, this is all about horror, gore, pain, and death metal of the old school variety. Dig in.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)