01. Praeludium 02. Corpse of Mankind 03. Nothing is Definite 04. Ruled by Domination 05. Reduced to Flesh 06. Can of Worms 07. Lethal Mistakes 08. Petty 09. Afterlife 10. Despicable You2018 Scarlet Records
by Kamron K.
This is not an easy review to write. Reduced To Flesh elicits so many mixed feelings. A veteran band with a fairly respectable discography earns its own set of merits, which has to be isolated from the quality of this specific release in some regards. My first reaction to new Hatesphere is usually, "Hell yeah! Hatesphere!" At the same time, as is the case with most things, with age comes diminishing quality (notice I said most, and not all things). So at this point it would be logical to assume that unless they are able to harness inspiration from some kind of significant life event or line-up change, each subsequent release from a band that has always been good but never great will continue to decline. Having said that, it's important to set those suspicions aside and give them a fair shot. After all, their tenure has earned them that right. After stumbling upon their single, "Corpse Of Mankind," on YouTube, I was optimistic. The opening speed/thrash jammer is a standout track on Reduced To Flesh, with legacy At The Gates pacing, Dimebag riffs, power-drumming, great rhythm, and even a groovy bridge you could pull from any Iron Maiden classic. "Can Of Worms" follows suit with an extended solo and pulverizing drums, and "Nothing Is Definite" delivers brutal blast beats around the 2:30 mark in unison with screeching growls. Easily, the album's strongest attributes are the individual elements rather than the sum of its parts. On vocals, Esse demonstrates solid power and range in his growls, although they are sometimes undermined by the subject and content of the lyrics (which I will speak to in greater detail momentarily). The guitar work is possibly the best part of the album and probably saves it from being considered a subpar effort. Powerful, groove-laden riffs are at the forefront, like a buzzsaw in your ear canal. Kasper plays the most important role in the band, delivering volume and energy to every track. Thrash elements are well-placed, and in the context of Esse's best growls, are reminiscent of Vader's more recent work. Things do start to get a little dicey though. Songs like "Ruled By Domination" contain bizarre cleans and eerie background vocals in addition to perplexing time signatures that totally deflate the listening experience. Equally odd placement of orchestration is inexplicably used as intermissions in the middle of "Reduced To Flesh" for over a minute, resuming with a thrashy minute and a half of lackluster music for no apparent reason. "Petty" exhibits equally embarrassing traits, with laughable lyrics such as, "...you suck. you suck, you suck as a human being. How sad it must be, to be you. You desperately need to win." One can only hope that this isn't sophomoric writing so much as translation issues, as tends to be the case with much of music originating from Europe that lands in the United States. Since they aren't the only ones plagued with this unfortunate reality (e.g. Soilwork's The Ride Majestic, or perhaps the worst album title of all time, Decapitated's Carnival Is Forever), it's hard not to consider there simply may be a phenomenon at play here. Still, titles like "Nothing Is Definite" make it difficult to take them seriously. Bottom Line: Reduced To Flesh isn't a complete miss. In fact, it's really only a few flaws away from being a really enjoyable record. Unfortunately, the missteps are too critical and glaring to overlook, and diminish the listening experience to a significant degree. If it does make it into your new release playlist rotation, it isn't going to be offensive to the point that you lunge toward the 'skip' button, but it also probably doesn't have enough replay value for you to really appreciate its (sparing) redeeming qualities. Throw it on when you want some energetic music, bang out some push-ups in your living room, and then move on to any other number of kick-ass releases from the last few months with more staying power.
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