One of the better power thrash bands you are likely to have never heard, thanks to no U.S. label and virtually zero U.S. distribution, Akron, Ohio's SHATTER MESSIAH have just released their sophomore effort, "God Burns Like Flesh", on Germany's Dockyard 1. The "selling point" for the band has been that guitarist, producer, and chief songwriter Curran Murphy did time as second guitarist for both NEVERMORE and ANNIHILATOR. Unsurprisingly, the down-tuned, accomplished power-thrash style of riffing is heard all over the new long player, as well as last year's "Never to Play the Servant". And yes, the songs, including Greg Wagner's singing style, do owe a debt to the Seattle heavyweights, a fact that Murphy does not dispute. Now that we've gotten that out of the way, what is most important to convey is that SHATTER MESSIAH is a modern heavy metal machine and "God Burns Like Flesh" is a damn fine slab of molten metal.The typical attributes that separate average albums from good albums — riffs and songwriting — are found in spades on "God Burns Like Flesh". The firepower of Murphy and Dusty Holt is impressive. Giant riff chunks, fat tones, and spine tingling solos are collectively the fuel that makes this vehicle run. Murphy's recording skills should be credited for beefing up the affair. Recorded at his very own Smiley Sound Studios, "God Burns Like Flesh" is "big" without being overly polished, while the crunch and low-end is terrific. Every song is not a grand slam, yet all are well above average, and several are just plain bad to the bone. The religious themed titled track, which deals with a God that may not be as invincible as his blind followers think, is most representative of the band's love of combining near death metal heaviness with a very tuneful, yet sinister, chorus. Incidentally, the third track, which is unlisted on the disc, is actually the second (albeit changed up) part of the title song, split up only for shits and giggles by Murphy. Other highlights include "Pathway" with its lilting chorus and the powerful "Dirge of the Christ". The little things, such as the unexpected shift into a jazzy guitar interlude on "Buried in Black" and the meshing of bleak, light picking and blood-boiling crush on "Tomorrow Immortal", are no doubt products of Murphy's time spent with Jeff Loomis and Jeff Waters. Finally, Wagner is the third leg of the stool. His voice changes effortlessly from Halford-esque screams to baritone lows and his performance defines passion time after time. I'd be surprised if most fans of bands that deftly combine metal's heavier moments with gripping melodies do not enjoy "God Burns Like Flesh", at least to some extent. Now let's hope the boys find an American label to give SHATTER MESSIAH the push they deserve on this side of the Atlantic.
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