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Lair of the Minotaur - The Ultimate Destroyer

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Artist: Lair of the Minotaur

Album: The Ultimate Destroyer

Label: Southern Lord

Review date: Apr. 9, 2006

There are some bands that, inexplicably, seem to lend themselves well to food metaphors. A close colleague once described Harvey Milk as a "good, heavy meal, followed by a nice pint or two of stout." It follows that Lair of the Minotaur would then be a gristly cut of still-warm bison steak, hoisted skyward in triumph by its loin-clothed harvester, then thrust into a raging open bonfire for a brief sear, before a sloppy and savage devourment. And you can bet that they dig words like "devourment,” too.

I'm a vegetarian - been so for nearly a decade now. The Ultimate Destroyer threatens to change all of that by the second song, inducing an atavism not unlike when William Hurt went ape in the city zoo in "Altered States". A bit unlike NWOBHM revivalists Valient Thorr or Early Man, the Minotaur regurgitates the igneous cud of 1980s thrash and proto-death metal for another laborious chaw. The record's nine tracks are rife with feedback squalls and down-tuned, sludgy guitar riffs with just the right degree of "bonehead polytonality" (i.e. those power chords that just don't set pretty against the muted chug of the lowest open string). Indeed, the opening trudge of "Cannibal Massacre,” namely, could have been graverobbed from Celtic Frost - and a couple of well-placed Tom G. Warrior-inspired "Heys!" further invite that comparison. Although the midtempo stomp is very much in-effect on numbers like the title track and "Lord of Butchery,” a Melvins comparison would be the easy way out. When they do thrash out, LotM evokes a more performance-polished take on the 1980s Germanic school, a la Kreator or Sodom, or any of those Industrial Arts flunkies from the Wild Rags or New Renaissance rosters (not known for observance of the current production values of their day, either).

Which is not to say that LotM is entirely a throwback. Guitarist Steven Rathbone's persistent tough-guy vocals, the conspicuous absence of guitar solos, and the occasional vague breakdown hint at some awareness that hardcore has since infiltrated metal and vice versa. Of course, that's a chicken or the egg debate the likes of which we ain't touchin' here.

Topically, the Minotaur looks to Greek mythology for lyrical fodder. While titles like "The Hydra Coils Upon this Wicked Mountain,” "Behead the Gorgon,” "Juggernaut of Metal" and the record's dedication ("to metal") send up ironic red flags, they turn out to be red herrings when it becomes evident that the trio can, in fact, walk the walk.

Another close colleague recently decried the post-ProTools sheen of modern metal as worthy of accompanying a beer commercial and not much else. Until Miller comes out with mead bottled in a Norseman's skull, LotM need not wait by the phone.

By Adam MacGregor

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