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Rigor Mortis - "Slaves To The Grave" (CD)

Rigor Mortis - "Slaves To The Grave" CD cover image

"Slaves To The Grave" track listing:

1. Poltergeist
2. Rain of Ruin
3. Flesh for Flies
4. The Infected
5. Blood Bath
6. Ancient Horror
7. Fragrance of Corpse
8. Curse of the Draugr
9. Sacramentum Gladiatorum
10. Lududs Magnus

Reviewed by on October 2, 2014

"Velocity and precision are key to the music and the crimson stain just can't be removed from the lyrics."

After a 23 year hiatus from the recording studio, legendary Dallas/Fort Worth thrashers Rigor Mortis return to create more sanguinary sonic scenarios. “Slaves to the Grave” is the band’s third full-length and sadly it will also be the last. Six-string executioner Mike Scaccia tragically passed away at the end of 2012, so the band will continue under the banner of Wizards of Gore. With the guitars Scaccia recorded, he not only left an ineffable mark on Rigor Mortis, but also on the annals of the heavy metal guitar heros.

Haunting opener, “Poltergeist,” sets the album into motion while providing an idea of what is to come. The band’s stop-and-start beginning clears a path for short bursts of speed picking. Once the band hits its stride, Scaccia plays top-string chords of a dark, foreboding nature. About the mid-way point through the song, the band zeros in on a melodic jam session led by Scaccia’s solos. This part is pure atmosphere as the guitars shimmer like an apparition, finger tapping creates rips in the fabric of time and whammy bars quickly float to the rafters. “Blood Bath” is another speed scorcher with an extended solo. Around the 4:30 mark another wicked whammy bar solo sets forth an odyssey of scales. More finger tapping and pinching notes result in a two-minute jam session.

Guitar solos are not a fixture in the new bands of today as they were in Rigor Mortis’ formative years—the early ‘80s. That’s the thing about this album, it doesn’t try to hitch onto modern trends. It’s old school through and through. The production has an early thrash quality. Some of the riffs recall bands that surely influenced Rigor Mortis. “Blood Bath” contains a top-string dissection that sounds like Maiden on meth.“The Infected” is another track with a Maiden feel in the guitars, and both these tracks showcase Casey Oar’s bass lines. The chugging rhythms on “Blood Bath” also take a Metallica “Kill ‘Em All” turn.

Bruce Corbitt’s gory lyrics are bloody enough to fit into any death metal album, but listeners won’t scratch their heads over what he’s saying. “Fragrance of the Corpse” is about, I believe, Ed Gein stowing away corpses in his house. “Flesh for Flies” is another fun-time cannibal tale, as is” The Infected,” but these cannibals are the undead. Corbitt takes a different direction on “Curse of the Draugur,” which is about Northern Europe mythology. “Sacramentum Gladiatorium” and “Lududs Magnus” is a two-part, gladiator epic, the first being an instrumental.

“Slaves to the Grave” is a fitting end to a trilogy spanning over a quarter of a century. This album shows the band maintaining its sound and not trying to tone it down one bit. Velocity and precision are key to the music and the crimson stain just can't be removed from the lyrics. Mike Scaccia is not around to experience the glory of this release, but he is immortal in the speakers of metal heads worldwide.

Highs: The horror-theme lyrics and Mike Scaccia’s guitar playing.

Lows: This is Mike Scaccia’s final piece of music.

Bottom line: A must have album!

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 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)