What follows is the review that I just sent off to the Metal-Archives, posted here in an attempt to "spread the good news," as some pastors love to say:
“aural insanity”–so says the liner notes, and so says any mortal that might tighten a helmet and test out his/her head's overall toughness by giving this disc a listen (though by most accounts, any number of a few four-letter expletives typically represents the average listener’s spoken impression of these crazy compositions; through the means of modern translation, it can be concluded that such swears usually entail bewilderment, amazement, etc. on behalf of the explicit benefactor).
As I sit here absorbing my twelfth trip through this tumultuous aural terrain, it has become apparent that the spirit of old At the Gates’ guitarist/songwriter Alf Svensson is surprisingly still alive, and apparently, was reincarnated into a fitter, more frenzied form that through an almost fanatic fixation on alacrity and a massive middle-finger to all accepted means of musical form has forcefully flung itself off the fringes of insanity and into the carefully-guarded grounds of genius.
What Gorgut’s “Obscura” did to the deadly death metal deluge that ran rampant throughout the terminal time span of the 1990's (i.e., essentially obliterate everything else that was available at the time), Crimson Massacre’s “The Luster of Pandemonium” does doubly to today's satiated and sagging scene full of spineless Suffocation simulators trying to out-blast and out-brutalize each other in addition to the many misguided Deicide/Cannibal Corpse admirers that agonize over attaining some supremely satanic/gory imagery and care little of creating sonically challenging content with substantial substance. As was the case with "Obscura," the sheer complexity of Crimson Massacre's compositions and singularity of their sound make this CD a strenuous spin for everyone. Still, these strange sounds should start making more sense in each subsequent spin, and any average member of Crimson Massacre's audience could conceivably be qualified to quantify any qualms/critiques/congratulations that he/she has comprehended by about five or six listens.
Moving on, to the meat of the matter, it must be mentioned that this CD's self-determined production decisions are absolutely perfect. Rather than try out the typical thick, thunderous, and artificially "heavy" tones that so many modern death metal bands abuse, this title utilizes a thin yet tenacious tone for each of the individual instruments, allowing the players' pounding, physical force to fade away so the beats/notes themselves become the focus and not the power at which they are being processed. This tenuous timbre also supports the frenetic frequencies at which these five instruments emit sounds (as with almost all forms of extreme metal, this particular vocal performance acts as another passionate, albeit primarily percussive instrument and not as a narrative peripheral), as not a single second is lost to that raunchy, remote rumble that’s ever-present in some death/grind gurus like Cryptopsy whose occasionally careless compositions can create sloppy sounding sections that surpass the capturing capability of their studio's setup. Perhaps that’s part of the reason why this whole musical conceptualization is simultaneously so confusing and captivating; instead of expressing sheer, stupid shock by saying, “Fuck, that guy can play fast!" or "Holy shit, that sounds fucking heavy as hell!", the enlightened listener's prevailing perception is probably something smilar to this: “My my, I can't say that I've ever encountered such an unusual combination of notation and composition.”
On the topic of perceptions, I must insists that I am not aiming to impart the impression that this album is all about alacrity. Although it is true that the only speed settings to be found are "by the winged heels of Hermes" and "we're actually accelerating our chances of acquiring arthritis by playing this fast" (as a side note, I’m a fervent follower of musicians that "fuckin' take it to the limit," and "The Luster of Pandemonium" most certainly contains that mystique), thanks to those potent production preferences that I pointed out previously, the only element that remains eminent while evaluating this performance is the playing itself, and not any of its aesthetic attributes. Crimson Massacre's chosen range of riffs is equally extraordinary, balancing a larger ratio of masterful, mind-altering (not necessarily in the narcotic sense) melodies with a smaller yet much needed supply of more standard note sequencing (relatively "standard," of course--I'm speaking of the six or seven sequences that the listener should have solved after two or three listens; chances are, the only melodies he/she will have figured out after the first listen is the climactic and thematic riff from “The Devourer” and the heroic, harmonized lick that highlights the latter half of the seventh song that's titled "The Luster of Pandemonium"). With harmony acting as the album's primary pleasuring mechanism, the several spots with wildly separate melodies being fired off at a frantic pace (found most frequently in "Of Perverted Hope and Fragmented Suffering") succeed in introducing dashes of dissonance, even though a lot of the discord is deftly disguised by the second guitar's similar speeds and somewhat stealthy standing in the album's overall mix (while noticeable during the massive, saturated harmonies, once must make a minor effort to locate the secondary guitar lines during all the other segments). Honestly though, the band has made a bright move by hinging their musical messages onto burly bolts of harmony, as most of Crimson Massacre's melodies are so deranged that any attempt at inserting an abundance of dissonance could have created a crippling, audio affliction. While overt, dual guitar discordance works wonderfully within the relatively safer strumming speeds that Gorguts' guitarists employed on "Obscura," it's hard to picture that same level of dissimilarity doing anything positive at a tier of mental exercise that's as tiring as "The Luster of Pandemonium."
Alas, there is one hindrance that keeps me from handing out a higher rank to this album, and that is the ten or so times throughout this trip when there is an upsetting popping sound that signifies a short slip in the sound quality and will last for a second or two. I have no clue as to the cause of this problem, but since I do own an early pressing of this CD, perhaps my copy is just defective.
Still, “The Luster of Pandemonium” serves as a marvelous muse for any musician with aspirations of achieving a sound that surpasses the mediocre "accomplishments" of most modern acts, and as usual, an adequate set of headphones is recommended for anyone with an insistence on obtaining an ornate listening experience (as an alternative, a powerful stereo system often provides a similarly splendid separation for music that's full of multi-layered sounds).