The Great Shadow Infiltrator - FAITHXTRACTOR

Ash and Marquis Thomas comprise the Cincinnati death metal duo FAITHXTRACTOR. While the moist sci-splat artwork for their second album "The Great Shadow Infiltrator" would lead one to believe a tech-heavy conceptual album awaits their listeners, that notion is a misnomer. Instead, the Thomas brothers open their gory portal to a low-tuned slime pit filled with slippery tempo variations. "The Great Shadow Infiltrator" is butt ugly, sometimes overanxious and always noisome, but not without its merits.

Ash Thomas helms the majority of FAITHXTRACTOR's instrumentation and upfront vocals, while Marquis rounds things up with secondary guitars and backing vocals. Ash's lead pukes are as nasty as bile conjured by an unholy binge of Jägermeister, Doritos and black forest pie, but on the flipside, his guitar solos are colossal. Ash rips his scales to pieces on "In All Forms Reptilian", "Freedom Conditional", "With Cold Calculation" and "Shackling the Long Usurped". His melodic sweeps overtop the opening bars of the shred-happy "The Eye at the Divide" is nifty stuff and that song's solo hardly slouches as well.

"The Great Shadow Infiltrator" flies most of the time, lurks in spots and for only a two-man operation, there's enough professionalism to override the album's occasional messiness. Even with detectable shanks on the drum parts now and then, a couple of misses on the signature changes and the nuisance of Ash's suffocating gorges, FAITHXTRACTOR can dazzle.

The faster moments of the album strike viciously on "The Beast Holographic", "The Six Knives of Redshield", "The Eye at the Divide", "Third and Final", and parts of "Earth to Anvil". The mid-tempo chug of "Freedom Conditional" presents one of the most cohesive and surefooted moments on the album, even as the song has a tendency to blast away. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the title track is painfully sluggish for most of the ride. To augment the torture effect, the listener is smothered by Ash's mucky hurls for most of the song with traces of the slow-divvied riffs and lumbering drum patterns hovering instead of driving in tandem. Its saving grace comes from a mournful guitar solo that sets up a slight increase in rhythm, allowing for more of the instrumentation to push forth.

"With Cold Calculation" minces its tempos and keeps its riffing strong before Ash Thomas' molten solo steals the show. The clattery "Coffle" likewise plays with different beat structures ranging from death grind to thrash to power metal, while the closing track "Shackling the Long Usurped" does its damnedest to smack the listener silly with some of the album's fiercest drumming.

All that's required of FAITHXTRACTOR at this point is some tightening up. Perhaps that entails adding an extra member to further thicken their dense projection. Ash Thomas proves himself to be a versatile musician and Marquis fills the guitar gaps just fine. However, Ash's fret talents should be pushed further and his saturating barfs need to be nudged down in the mix. Death metal motifs being what they are, the growling is acceptable, but only when serving the songs instead of blighting them.

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