Reviewed: December 2009
Released: 2009, Ibex Moon Records
Reviewer: Kyle Moore, the Metal Magnus
When it comes to throwback bands, I sit firmly on the fence. The idea is to take the sounds of yesteryear and somehow repackage or reimagine it without losing that special “something” that made the original so awesome. Seeing as how many bands completely fail at making decent throwback records, there can be little wonder in my skepticism. Thankfully, some bands like Sweden’s Bloodbath succeed brilliantly with the throwback concept, striking the perfect balance between old-school sonic necrosis and enlightened songwriting; in their case, Bloodbath ultimately evolved past the limits of old-school Euro-death metal and became a musical force in their own right. On the less exceptional end of things, you have minuscule groups like Texas’ Rape Pillage and Burn (RP&B) who take 90s Swedish death metal and make it unlistenably boring.
If mediocrity and un-imagination had a symbol, it should be RP&B and their debut EP entitled SONGS OF DEATH…SONGS OF HELL. Throughout this mercifully brief 16 minute EP, there is absolutely nothing going on that might maintain a listener’s interest. Songs are generally short, monotonous beyond belief, and devoid of anything resembling passion. RB&P seems content to weakly imitate the vintage sounds of Entombed and Dismember (whom bassist Richard Cabeza is a former member of,) without capturing one shred of what made those acts so badass in their day. The most interesting thing I can say about RB&P is their ill-fitting military shtick that features the band dressed as a hybrid of ninjas and redneck militia members; their lyrical gimmick is the usual apocalypse/kill people/Jesus-sucks theme, with the band wistfully imagining themselves as some kind of Hell-spawned commando unit with AR-15s and bad haircuts.
Individual performances don’t help RP&B’s lack of artistic vision in the slightest. Matt Killen’s comatose drumming plunks along like a hamstrung, robotic version of Slayer’s Dave Lombardo after a week of heavy drinking. His default beat for the first three songs is a startlingly unvarying pattern of kick-snare-kick-snare at the exact same tempo of roughly 160 BPM. It isn’t until the last track “With Venomous Tongues” that we finally get a tempo change (which by itself almost makes the song tolerable.) While I realize he’s trying to mimic a bare-bones musical style, there’s no creativity, impetus, or anything resembling an energizing force in a single hit of his sticks. A cleverly programmed drum machine (see Alaska’s Satanist for a prime example,) or perhaps a chorus of stone-wielding Neanderthals could have provided more percussive gusto to SONGS than this fellow. What the devolved drumming brings to the table is easily matched by the amateurish riffing of Michael Sleavin, who at least has a respectable death growl. His impotent, grooveless riffs remind me of what DOWN TO EARTH-era Ozzy might have shat out if he been in a substandard Swedish death metal act.
What else is there to say when confronted with such astonishing musical apathy? I could kvetch about how soulless this music is all day, but that wouldn’t help RP&B make a better product. An act like RP&B who can’t generate one ounce of musical moxy needs to pack it in for good. Ultimately, being both dead and in Hell would be a welcome alternative to enduring one more playthrough of SONGS OF DEATH…SONGS OF HELL.
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