Lair of the Minotaur The Ultimate Destroyer

[Southern Lord; 2006]

Styles: ’80s classic black metal, thrash
Others: Venom, Bathory, Kreator

After a rather crushing High On Fire live set, my friend turned around and exclaimed, "That was like big, HUGE balls of..." "Of gold!" "No! OGRES!" I really can't imagine a better description for The Ultimate Destroyer: big, huge balls of ogres, if that's even possible (which, in heavy metal similes, always is). Formed out of the grind metal jokesters 7000 Dying Rats, Lair of the Minotaur dropped the explicit irony and now revel in the awesomeness of classic black metal and thrash boldly, waving a lyrical banner of bloody Greek mythology. Unlike the too tongue-in-cheek 3 Inches of Blood (which I'll admit to enjoying) that reeks of ex-hardcore kids laughing a bit too hard with the audience at their hi-larious joke, I firmly believe every damn riff, grunt, and growl even if that growl is "Forged metal, from the fire of the hearth/ Hades hammer, pounds the Earth."

Even though the album's rife with smirk-inducing, albeit kick-ass, allusions to metal lore, the production does not. In fact, it's the antithesis to the stereotypically poor sound of those early Venom and Bathory records (yeah, the fact that Bathory's Under the Sign of the Black Mark sounds like it was recorded in a fuckin' cave is grimmer than sin, but all I can hear are a trebly guitar and an unnecessary amount of cymbals). Steven Rathbone's relentless Les Paul guitar crunch boldly stands out in front with a full-bodied pounding from the bass and drums. The Ultimate Destroyer brings classic black metal into the 21st century wrapped in quarter-inch Medusa cables enforced with a Trojan-sized army of Marshall stacks.

As the song titles become more ridiculous (Cannibal Corpse wishes they came up with "Engorged With Unborn Gore"), the album stays solid, which I can't say often of metal bands. Lair of the Minotaur avoids the low chug trap of their contemporaries by extending sludgy segments, thrashing particularly Venom-ous songs harder and faster like a thicker Kreator, and carefully places alternate low- and mid-pitched growls/grunts that suit the girth of the riff instead of distracting the ear from the righteous thrash. Even when they screw around with classic metal, this is a band that respects and glorifies the almighty riff.

1. Juggernaut of Metal
2. Behead the Gorgon
3. The Ultimate Destroyer
4. Horror
5. Grisly Hound of the Pit
6. Cannibal Massacre
7. Lord of Butchery
8. Engorged With Unborn Gore
9. The Hydra Coils Upon This Wicked Mountain

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