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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Rigor Mortis

Slaves to the Grave

Review by Mike Korn

The tale of Rigor Mortis has to be one of the biggest hard luck stories in metal history. The Texas band hit like a 20-megaton bomb with their self-titled debut in 1989…some of the purest, more merciless thrash metal ever unleashed on human ears. Two things stood out about the record…the phenomenally fast yet expressive guitar picking of Mike Scaccia and the grim gravelly vocals of Bruce Corbitt.

The debut was the peak of Rigor Mortis’ career. Capitol Records had no idea how to promote such a brutal band and soon dropped them. Corbitt was replaced by Doyle Bright and two more albums followed…both very serviceable but not with the same magic as the debut. After that, Rigor Mortis hung it up, and the members went on to some notable pursuits. Scaccia met Ministry’s Al Jourgenson and became his partner not only in Ministry, but in Revolting Cocks and other Jourgenson-led projects. Bassist Casey Orr became Beefcake the Mighty in GWAR and also joined GWAR’s Dave Brockie in the X-Cops. Drummer Harden Harrison joined speed punks REO Speedealer, who were forced to drop “REO” from their name after a lawsuit from the Speedwagon band. Corbitt became lead singer for Texas thrashers Warbeast. But cult metal bands never die, so Rigor Mortis got back together to record Slaves to the Grave. Then the infamous “curse” of Rigor Mortis struck again in the most devastating fashion possible. A mere three days after completing guitar tracks for this album, Mike Scaccia died on stage during a live Rigor Mortis performance.

Slaves to the Grave will be a fitting epitaph for both Scaccia and Rigor Mortis. The album combines the blazing thrash for which they are known with some new and interesting touches. It’s a real tragedy thinking about what Rigor Mortis could have been, but this album puts a strong exclamation point on their career!

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Poltergeist

Wow! A tidal wave of  hyper fast thrash metal erupts like an exploding volcano, and Bruce Corbitt’s grim vocals relate a tale of malevolent spirits. It sounds like it’s 1989 again! What a talent Scaccia was…his solo will fry your eyebrows off! The song goes through a surprising change in its second half, as a mellower acoustic vibe arises and Scaccia cuts loose with a more bluesy kind of guitar sound. It’s a very interesting way to open the album, with both classic and new Rigor Mortis elements.

Rain of Ruin

This punchy little thrasher has a riff pattern that reminds me a lot of early Exodus. Corbitt’s vocals are rough and nasty as he sings “Science fiction is now science fact/We’ve come too far to go back.”  Real strong bass playing from Casey Orr propels this one right along.

Flesh for Flies

This is on another level yet from the previous songs. This is the kind of raging metal holocaust that made the first Rigor Mortis album so memorable. I can’t even imagine the mosh pit that this would cause live! Mike Scaccia’s finger must have bled when playing this one! It is simple but devastatingly effective.

The Infected

The opening to this song is very fast but rooted in more melodic heavy metal, with an arpeggiated pattern.  It’s thrash but a bit more progressive than what we’ve heard before. There’s another beautiful solo from Scaccia, as well.

Blood Bath

You can sure hear the Slayer influence on this one and indeed, I’ve been told this song has roots in the elder days of Rigor Mortis.  It’s a tale of serial killers lurking amongst us, with Bruce Corbitt’s trademark growls fitting the subject matter perfectly. Again the song slows down in the second part and features more of a spooky vibe as well as a more “rock and roll” guitar solo.

Ancient Horror

A very “oldschool” sounding track, this is one of my favorites. Not a total thrasher, this has the feel of “true” metal from the 80s. There’s a real cool gang shouted chorus here, too. I don’t know if this is about Cthulhu, Godzilla or some other aquatic beast, but whatever it is, it is an “ancient horror!”

Fragrance of Corpse

This one’s a pretty typical Rigor Mortis thrasher, which means its fun to listen to but not too much more.

Curse of the Draugr

Much like “Flesh for Flies," this one just rips from the get-go.  It’s an all-out speed assault that doesn’t let up for a minute. I love the shouted chorus vocals and pure speed riffing on this one…a pure Rigor Mortis song!

Sacramentum Gladitorium

This epic instrumental is where  the album takes a strong left turn. Based around most acoustic sounds, this sounds  almost like a soundtrack. There are metal aspects to it but it’s as far from a typical Rigor Mortis song as there is on this album. Again, Mike Scaccia’s brilliant soloing brings a tear to the eye.

Ludus Magnus
I’m not sure this kind of song works for the band. It’s an almost ten minute slow, epic tune with Corbitt doing growled spoken vocals about the butchery of the ancient Roman gladiatorial games. It has a fascination at first but drags on really long and could use some variation to break it up. This is a failed, but interesting, experiment for Rigor Mortis.
 
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