"Realm of Terror"

(Heavy Artillery)

01. The Abyss
02. Realm of Terror
03. Evil Darkness
04. Tombs of the Dead
05. Death Warriors
06. Cult of Doom
07. Tormented Fate
08. Fall to the Pentagram
09. The Gate
10. Summoning of the Ancient Ones

RATING: 9/10

So you think California retro thrashers MERCILESS DEATH are just some flash in the pan that made one outstanding old school album called "Evil in the Night" in 2007? They're just part of that whole trend of youngsters that started playing 80's thrash metal when they found some old vinyl in their parents' basements and it will soon end in a shit storm of watered down mall metal detritus, right? Bullshit, I say! MERCILESS DEATH are the real deal — playing what they love, when they want, as loud as they want, and tactfully inviting the detractors to go fuck themselves. And damn it, listen to "Evil in the Night" or the equally enthralling new album "Realm of Terror" and it is mind boggling to think that the band elders (guitarist Dan Holder and vocalist/bassist Andy Torres) are friggin' 22 years old! I'll be the first to admit that there is a lot of great thrash metal being played by kids who were tadpoles when the genre was born, but MERCILESS DEATH continue to kick the dog crap out of most of 'em. Besides, how many of you would have bitched about the next "trend" in metal being vintage thrash?

As for "Realm of Terror", it is an outstanding sophomore effort and every bit the masterpiece that is "Evil in the Night" without sounding like a mere clone of its predecessor. Take everything you love about "Evil in the Night" — the razor wire guitar riffs, nasty tone, wild 'n wooly solos, loose, yet not sloppy, rhythm section, totally organic sound, memorable tunes, and venom spitting vocals — and add a darker atmosphere, fuller bottom end, and lower register vocals from Andy Torres and you've got "Realm of Terror". Oh yeah, replace Ed Repka with Andreas Marschall (KING DIAMOND, SODOM, RUNNING WILD, DESTRUCTION, OBITUARY, etc.) for the nefarious cover art too.

One might even say that MERCILESS DEATH took the melting pot of German, Canadian, and U.S. thrash styles heard on "Evil in the Night" and added a little POSSESSED to ensure that every last bit of prettiness has been demolished. The interesting thing about MERCILESS DEATH — and it really comes across on "Realm of Terror" — is that the music is largely devoid of traditional melody, the band seeking to cut out the throat rather than warm the heart. Yet there are just enough tiny hooks and/or memorable lines on songs such as "Death Warriors", "Summoning of the Ancient Ones", or the title track (that hellish shout of "Phantasm!" will send a shiver down your spine) to make each track immediately recognizable after only a couple of spins.

An eerie intro ("The Abyss"), outro (closing seconds of "Summoning of the Ancient Ones"), and an evil-as-fuck chant-vocal/macabre-effects interlude called "Fall to the Pentagram" not only add to the disc's bleak feel, but also fit snugly in the overall flow; the album wouldn't seem right without them. "Realm of Terror" is about as good as it gets. How could any true thrash metal fan not love this album?


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