Atomic Aggressor - Sights of Suffering
Hells Headbangers
Death Metal
11 songs (54' 29")
Release year: 2014
Hells Headbangers
Reviewed by Andy

Chilean death metal old-timers Atomic Aggressor vanished without a trace after the end of the 80s, leaving only a few demos in their wake. Resurfacing in 2008 with a compilation album of re-releases from those demos, they've finally released a full album this year, just as fiercely headbangable as their demos, though with a sometimes smoother production than one would like.

Like many other death metal pioneers, the music is a time capsule of their earlier sound; unlike those others, we've barely had a chance to hear their sound yet, so nothing sounds rehashed. Faceless Torment is like the 25 years or so between their demos never happened; vocals that are a vile cross between a growl and a hoarse whisper from bassist/frontman Alejandro Díaz grind into the ears with purpose, while the twin guitars, all pointy with sharp-edged distortion, slam together with the bass in one big block of sound, pausing for one another to tag-team the listener with a chaotic, Slayer-esque solo. The drums are complex and provide a lot of the atmosphere of the piece -- flat and hard on the verses, filled with crashing cymbals on the solos and noisier sections. Unlike, say, Master, the speed isn't always high-powered thrashing all the time, though they are certainly capable of it; sometimes the music slows, and Atomic Aggressor is expert at arrhythmic halts and breaks for effect. The title track is filled with crunchy riffs, tremolo-picked in one place and astoundingly melodic in a few others where they could easily get away with just brute-force thrashing and still be good. More thrashing, at a lower and more deliberate speed, happens on Curse of Creation, which is even darker and harsher than usual.

The production's smoothness works against it in a few places. Lords of the Abyss's drums and bass feel like they has been toned down in this new recording, in a way the band probably didn't intend, though the guitars still have the invasive, diamond-tipped-drill-to-the-cranium sound that they possessed on the demos. This can partially be remedied by merely turning up the volume, and it only bothered me occasionally, but it's there. The music itself, though, sacrifices nothing in its modern edition. As if to prove it, a rerecorded bonus track of Twilight Spectres is available on the vinyl version. It is perfectly in line with the other tracks on the album, but the new ones, while just as worthy of the name "Aggressor", seem more thoughtful and certainly more capable of the melodies found here than the older tracks were.

Sights of Suffering is definitely worth listening to, and sacrifices none of the aggression of the past while gaining some new complexity and power. Listeners interested by their old demos, and old-school death metal fans, will probably be impressed with it -- as I was.

Killing Songs :
Sights of Suffering, Lords of the Abyss
Andy quoted 84 / 100
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