Lair of the Minotaur
The Ultimate Destroyer
2006
B+



metal has splintered into so many variations that it's easy to forget they all come from the same place. Shrieking black metal, prissy swoop-do'd metalcore, and, hell, even Korn wouldn't exist without Black Sabbath. Every once in a while, a record truly captures the essence of metal; The Ultimate Destroyer is that record. To "get" metal, one must see it live, and in a small setting. Metal is beer, sweat, power, evil, and hair, lots of it (if I died and went to heaven, all that long hair at metal shows would be women). In true metal fashion, the members of Lair of the Minotaur rock beards (specifically, the "chinstrap" variety), but, more importantly, they rock. The Ultimate Destroyer has more energy than most bands' live shows, and that's because LotM keeps it ugly. None of this eyeliner and teen angst crap; bring on the hammer of the gods!

Lair of the Minotaur began in 2003 in Chicago. Guitarist/vocalist Steven Rathbone and bassist Donald James Barraca of grind outfit 7000 Dying Rats enlisted drummer Larry Herweg of drone metal darlings Pelican to play meat-and-potatoes metal—no "doom," "death," or "-core" subgenres, just straight-up, headbanging metal. LotM draws from Celtic Frost, Venom, and early Slayer, but updates them with modern production and tunes down to a teeth-rattlingly low B. Since day one, the band has had the same modus operandi: crushing riffs, primal drums, and lyrics about Greek mythology. Death metal band Nile, who writes solely about Egyptian history, is perhaps the only other group with such a singular lyrical mission. The Greek gods were a violent lot, and LotM 's caveman riffs are befitting of their lyrics.

Few things are more metal than songs about metal, and The Ultimate Destroyer kicks off with the self-explanatory "Juggernaut of Metal" ("Forged metal from fires of the hearth / Hades hammer pounds the Earth / Keep my steel at my side / And my enemies skinned alive"). The album isn't about songs so much as it is about riffs, which are rawer than the meat ripped from an animal's body by a predator's blood-soaked maw. For the most part, the album hovers around a mid-paced stomp tailor-made for headbanging. No wheedly solos or technical passages here—it's all blunt force. That's not to say the playing is simplistic. Herweg's drums, while not the flashiest or most precise, are lively and driving, and his beats mesh perfectly with the riffs. "The Ultimate Destroyer" stands out as the hairier, beefier cousin of Judas Priest's "Painkiller," while "Engorged with Unborn Gore" is the kind of heavy gallop Metallica used to do so well.

The production here splendidly captures the band's raw heaviness, and Scott Hull (of Pig Destroyer fame) adds a typically hot mastering job. Add in gorgeous, gold-tinged artwork, and you have a package worth buying, not downloading. The gothic font used for the lyrics is hard to read, but deserves deciphering. The lyrics spell out the myths of Kerberos, the Gorgon, the Hydra, and the epic tale of Odysseus and the Laistrygones. Don't be surprised if you find yourself visiting Wikipedia between bouts of headbanging.


Reviewed by: Cosmo Lee
Reviewed on: 2006-05-22
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