Thursday, 20 September 2012

Merciless Death - Sick Sanctities

I guess nowadays many of you would know Merciless Death, but the young American thrash metal band, which is OK, but for me they won’t be anything more than just a bare copy of Exodus riffs. Here I want to introduce you an old Polish death / thrash metal band, also called Merciless Death. Well, the main thing which you should know is that Merciless Death is very old band; formed in 1987! This is when they’ve released their first demo “Eternal Condemnation”. Later on the band from Szczecin (North of Poland, at the border with Germany) unleashed a killer demo titled “Holocaust” in 1992 and finally the album “Sick Sanctities” in 1993, after which Merciless Death split up (just to make the story full, they’ve reformed recently and recorded a second album “New Hell” in 2011, but I don’t know this material yet). Anyway, “Sick Sanctities” definitely belongs to the coolest death metal recordings from Poland from this period of time and while originally it was released on tape by Carnage Records, finally someone decided also to put it out on CD (Thrashing Madness, 2009), as well as the vinyl (High Roller Records, 2010). Well, this definitely is very fortunate to remind everyone what Merciless Death was like and what great music they played, especially as “Sick Sanctities” is pretty hard to find on the original tape. Thrashing Madness released the CD with some live bonus tracks, which is a cool addition to the album material plus they’ve also putted the multimedia section, which is a video recording from the old gig of the band. Ha, I can assure you that all that makes “Sick Sanctities” a very special release.
From the other hand I don’t know how many of you will be able to appreciate “Sick Sanctities”. I mean nowadays this album sounds incredibly archaic and old school and I guess there are no bands today, which would sound like this. And I say that despite the fact that we witness the great resurgence of the old sounding death metal… but bands nowadays just cannot achieve a production, like the one from “Sick Sanctities”. From the other hand “Sick Sanctities” has sound, which is quite typical for the early 90’s Polish death metal and that’s maybe why I like it so much, as I really worship the demos from Poland from this period of time.
Also the songs, with their structures and arrangements are like nothing what bands from nowadays would be able to achieve. And “Sick Sanctities” is a great album, in my opinion, one which definitely is a rightful continuator of the killer “Holocaust” demo, which I consider to be one of the best demos from Poland from this period of time. Style wise Merciless Death performs their death metal with a lot of thrash metal influence… hmm, I suppose that at that time this music was rather called aggressive thrash metal rather than death metal, but that doesn’t matter. Imagine the band, which would have elements of cults like Dark Angel, Slayer, early Death, Possessed, Revenant, Pestilence (demos especially, but also the first LP), Massacra, Protector, demo era Vader and this sort of bands. Merciless Death (obviously a name taken from Dark Angel song!) slays with killer, thrashing riffs, which will just force the maniacal headbanging right from the very beginning of the instrumental “The Sanctuary”. While this song still has some moments of calm playing, then in “The Victim” the hell breaks loose and Merciless Death shows all their strength, playing some really fast (for this sort of playing obviously) parts (but also adding some more harmonious moments in the guitar leads).
While I must say that I liked “Holocaust” material more, for its more relentless and uncompromising, rawer nature, “Sick Sanctities” shows Merciless Death as more mature and completed band. They had really good technical skills and composed some cool songs. But there’s one thing, which I don’t really understand and it’s the fact why did Merciless Death use so many unnecessary interruptions within their album. Like for example there’s this acoustic passage somewhere in the beginning of the album (before “River of Blood”), which I find it as completely unnecessary, as it only breaks the pace and aggression, while the album has only just started. I don’t like this idea at all. And it’s not the only time, when Merciless Death – after playing some killer, fast and aggressive death / thrash – tries to combine something different into their style. It can be more melodic part, something slower or acoustic, it doesn’t matter, but it usually didn’t work so well – also because there are too many of them. I have a feeling like the band tried to vary the music slightly more, get something more unusual, but in the end those interruptions only destroy the whole aggressive aura of the music. And for instance that keyboard outro after the title song seems to be completely out of place.
“Sick Sanctities” contains some bonus material. The audio has four live songs, recorded in Szczecin around 1992 or 93 – and I must say that this live recording sounds really well! I expected very primitive, almost unlistenable bootleg quality recording, meanwhile we get a pretty clean sounding, easily listenable audio quality. I love the vocalist’s speeches between the songs, which are so different from nowadays times. And the multimedia section contains a live recording from the gig in Kontrasty Club in Szczecin, from 1993. Here the video quality is rather poor, the whole stuff is about 12 minutes long and has been taken from the VHS cassette, but the audio is not bad again. Anyway, both extras are very good additions to “Sick Sanctities”, which even on its own would be a cool album to have. I do recommend it to you, if you like such archaic death / thrash metal releases, but try to get “Holocaust” CD also, as it’s even better than “Sick Sanctities”.
Standout tracks: “The Force”, “River of Blood”, “Sick Sanctities”
Final rate: 75/100

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