Recalling my review of 2005's "(N)utopia" by Italy's GRAVEWORM, the album was a decent effort that combined the band's patented dark, gothic-tinged even, and keyboard-laced black/death metal, but seemed to lack a certain something. The resulting 6.5/10 was an indication of an album that contained some worthwhile melodies and a convincing level of aggression on one hand, yet was a tad inconsistent and left me wondering if the band had hit a wall on the other. Those thoughts quickly vanished from the very first spin of "Collateral Defect", a smashing album that sounds like a band rejuvenated with markedly improved songwriting and a sharp up-tick in aggression that leaves its predecessor in the dust.The first thing one notices is how seamlessly the album flows from beginning to end. Sandwiched between synth intro "Reflections" and the downright charming instrumental closer "Memories" (dedicated to the members' deceased parents) is a collection of tracks with memorable melodies, Sabine Mair's exceptional keyboard work, Stefan Fiori's splendid mix of black and death vocals, and the raging riffs of guitarists Stirz and Eric Righi. Producer Andy Classen once again manages to harness each instrument's power, the result a mix that gives the guitars a sharp edge, the keys a rich texture, and the rhythm section a palpable crispness. Mair's keyboard playing is especially fulfilling on "Suicide Code", a real scorcher and one of the album's best tracks. "The Day I Die" is right up there as well; the chorus melody shines through and the tune closes out with an alluring keyboard segment. KATAKLYSM's Maurizio Iacono offers guest vocals on "Fear of Hate" and THE SORROW's Matze provides an absolutely enchanting melodic clean vocal harmony on "Fragile Side", making it one of the album highlights as well. And what can you say about the full-on black/death treatment of BONNIE TYLER's "I Need a Hero"? Play the tune for someone without letting him or her in on the secret; you'll get a dropped-jaw reaction every time. Fun stuff. "Collateral Defect" is an enjoyable album that deftly mixes aggression, melody, and dark atmosphere. It is certainly a huge leap forward from "(N)utopia" and will continue to get spins in my CD player.
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