Slaughter Messiah – Cursed to the Pyre Review

During my short career as an unpaid music journalist1, there have been a handful of times that I’ve received some criticism for my evaluation style. Apparently, my subjective assessment of a record can at times be too subjective. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t always take the overall state of a genre into consideration (or sometimes I simply just don’t know the overall state of a genre) when reviewing an album. My approach can be summed up concisely in this way: How does the record make me feel? This strategy allows modern entries into tried and true styles to have a fair fight against new and innovative offerings — they both must give me the feelz to succeed. I’m vehemently opposed to the idea that just because a genre has been overdone, it can therefore no longer produce great albums. Sure, bands that adhere to more familiar styles will have to work harder to impress, but when they do, they capitalize on a nostalgia factor that can be hard to beat. Case in point: Belgian thrashers Slaughter Messiah.

Slaughter Messiah formed way back in 2008, but are just now getting around to releasing their first full-length, Cursed to the Pyre. Thanks to the five demos/EPs that the band released in their first decade, the record presents a well-honed sound and well-practiced skill set that’s devoid of the sloppiness and lack of focus that have marred many a debut. Playing a perfectly twisted combo of Coma of Souls Kreator and Reign in Blood Slayer that’s been laced with the icy fingers of black metal, Slaughter Messiah are unabashedly planting their flag of hate just south of heaven and laying claim to the realm of late 80’s/early 90’s thrash.

The album opens with the ominously Slayer-esque instrumental intro to lead single “From the Tombs Into the Void,” and I suggest that you use this brief moment of relative serenity to buckle your seatbelt and place your seat backs and tray tables into their upright and locked positions — shit’s about to get righteously turbulent and will rarely let up for the next 42 minutes. Once the main riff kicks in and bassist and vocalist Lord Sabathan (ex-Enthroned) unleashes a warning grunt, the listener is treated to a crash course in everything that was and is great about thrash. “Hideous Affliction” continues the lesson with a seven minute epic that contains several tempo changes, an album’s worth of riffs, and a powerful outro built upon the powerful drumming of Jon Berry. The sound of flames tormenting a silent victim herald the beginning of “Pyre,” a song that’s equal parts black metal and thrash and recalls some of Deströyer 666’s best moments. Over the years, I’ve picked up on an unconscious response that my body exhibits when exposed to great riffs. If, in the midst of listening, I find myself involuntarily snarling like Rocky, I know that what I’m hearing is a great riff. This is the case during the entirety of “The Hammer of Ghouls,” its grooving and impossibly hard-hitting rhythms inducing painful cramps in my snarl muscles.

Slaughter Messiah have emulated and put their own blackened spin on their well-worn genre of choice, and the production is dark and immensely heavy like its music, nailing the aesthetic and the classic sound of the bands name-dropped above. Each and every time “Fog of the Malevolent Sore” eerily closes things out, I’m amazed at the quality of what I’ve just heard. Cursed to the Pyre brings to mind similarities to classic records but escapes of the trap of feeling derivative or contrived. Each of the eight tracks contains memorable riffs and melodies from best guitar buds Iron Bitch Desecrator and Exhumator, and the charismatic vocal performance by metal veteran Lord Sabathan seals the deal. “From the Tomb Into the Void,” “Mutilated by Depths,” “Hideous Affliction,” “Pyre,” and “The Hammer of Ghouls” get the Holdeneye seal of approval but so do all the other tracks. Just listen to the whole damn thing. And then do what I’d do, and listen to it all again.

Cursed to the Pyre does little that is unique in a subgenre of metal that has been going strong for nearly 40 years, but what it does, it does extremely well. The twelve years it took Slaughter Messiah to release a debut has given them time to carefully craft an image and a sound that should more than please fans of the thrashiest of metals.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: High Roller Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: February 21st, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. You title is Assistant to the Regional Reviewer Trainer. – Steel
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