Ready for Death – Ready for Death Review

I’m currently compiling Angry Metal Guy’s annual EP, demo, split and collaboration article, and it’s always a compelling reminder that less is more when it comes to song and album lengths. Only very particular artists can write long-form material which is truly engaging front to back, whereas everyone else can convey their best ideas in much shorter form. Enter Chicago’s Ready for Death and their eponymous debut album. It’s marketed as a full release but that’s a full release in grind terms; 10 tracks across just 22 minutes is all you’ll hear here. Though it features members and ex-members of Pelican, Indecision, Concrete Cross and various black metal outfits, the one sheet promises thrash metal destruction. Certainly, its concept is typical within the realms of thrash, with track titles and lyrics documenting planetary annihilation. Are you ready (for death)?

Despite the band’s name, the output primarily draws from thrash and hardcore, with only occasional slivers of speed and death metal. The majority of Ready for Death splits the rawness of hardcore with the aggression of thrash, speeding through a mix of grinding leads and chromatic chugging. The abrasiveness only breaks on one song – the flighty and fun “Savior Sinner” – while the closer “Microchip Mutation” is basically a death metal track with thick grooves and one of the record’s most punishing passages. Ready for Death forge a dirty sound that I enjoy. If any one element of the raw production sounded cleaner or more artful than the others, then the whole package would fall apart. The instrumental tones grind in the right ways and the narrow, claustrophobic mix contributes to the record’s discomforting effect.

As for the songwriting, I would describe the approach as “blunt force trauma.” This quality is exemplified over the opening 3 tracks which hammer the core thrash/hardcore materials into the shape of grindcore. Each is fast, short and abrasive with uncomfortable barked vocals. However, these tracks also illustrate that the songwriting across Ready for Death can feel undercooked. They feature only 1 or 2 riffs over lengths that run for less than 2 minutes, such riffs being solid but not outstanding. These short fragments don’t feel like full songs as they aren’t given the time and space to grow into whatever they could be. Ready for Death no doubt deliberately squeezed the 3 shortest tracks into the front of the release; they immediately clobber the listener with what the band is all about. But they also convey that the band is less subtle and good at songwriting than they can be.

By comparison, other songs across Ready for Death contain more than just 1 or 2 leads and demonstrate song-writing development. “Cyborg Priest” interweaves 2 separate leads over its opening passage and deploys a transitionary guitar solo, before contrasting a slower passage with a faster and more climactic one over its second half. The fluctuating pace and distinct structure result in a track which is less one-dimensional and consequently invests me more in its progression. Similarly, “Microchip Mutation” layers slower, deathly grooves with a noodling guitar and uses one of the record’s best stomping transitions. These moments layering, dynamism and technical chops make me yearn for a bit more variety on the record. Although it only runs for 22 minutes, the tracks start to blur. The blunt style bolsters the sound’s initial impact but it also means that particular tracks lack definition.

I have no doubt it was deliberate but Ready for Death feels like a demo or EP in more than just its 22-minute duration. A number of the songs are underdeveloped and simplistic, with the stronger moments falling around those which feature a little more complexity and growth. I’m not asking for Mozart, but even the most savage death metal can reveal levels of nuance on repeated listens. There’s a compelling middle ground between blunt and abrasive but also engaging and thoughtful; Ready for Death haven’t quite found it here. Still, you could do worse if you like heavy stuff and have 22 minutes to spare.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps MP3
Label: Translation Loss Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: December 9th, 2022

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