Sounds of the Dead Records is quickly making a name for themselves. First, it was the "Brutal Christmas" album and now they bless us with this three-way split between Royal Anguish, Soul of the Savior, and Tortured Conscience.
Royal Anguish begins this three-way split with their "Shocking the Priest" EP that was originally recorded in 1992. Many of you may remember seeing ads for this in Heaven's Metal back in the day. (That's early HM for you young ones). Don't dismiss this as dated music, as this is some solid death metal that deserved more of a chance in its day. Now for those of you only familiar with the current Royal Anguish, this will be a bit of a surprise. This isn't every-song-is-way-different hybrid metal. Actually, the main downpoint to these four songs is that fact that sometimes the songs start sounding a tad similar. A little monotonous, if you may. But don't despair, it's not something that really detracts from the overall listening enjoyment. Royal Anguish blazes through four tracks of brutal metal with some of the fastest blastbeats you'll hear. One listen to "Rest in Pieces" and you'll be hooked. The vocals are not an extremely deep growl. They are kind've a growl/throaty scream mix. Doesn't sound bad though. The band can change speeds with ease, but most of the time seem to want to play at hyper-speed. The production is pretty decent here, but not world-class. With all that blasting, I wish the drum sound was a little more powerful, but hey, it's better than no blasting at all!
Soul of the Savior is next with their "Farewell to the Flesh" four song EP that was originally recorded in 2001. This group throws down some ferocious death metal that is sure to turn some heads. Sick vocals and monster riffs drip from these four songs. This is definitely a band to keep your eye on. The songs here are a bit heavier than the Royal Anguish material. Sometimes the sound is slow and plodding, but other times, like on "Good and Pure" the band fly along at breakneck speed, blasting you into the ground. One thing about this band though...with the name Soul of the Savior, and song titles like "Dear Marilyn", "Good and Pure", and "Farewell to the Flesh", without hearing them you would swear they were a hardcore band. I thought that for the longest time before hearing them. I even heard that they were death metal and I was like, "nope they gotta be metalcore or something." Well, after hearing them...this is death metal folks and I like it! Production is pretty decent here as well.
Tortured Conscience finishes up with their "Face of God" demo from 2001, along with a newly recorded bonus track from their upcoming full length. This stuff is massively brutal. The pace is lightening fast with some fantastic drumming and mega-low death vocals. They also throw in some cool samples on a couple songs. The demo was originally called "Demo 2001", but they changed it for this split CD. As we continue the progression on this CD, this material is heavier than both the previous bands. Production is decent like the others and doesn't interfere with the listening much at all. I like the first three tunes better than the bonus track. Not that the bonus track is bad, but the drumming slacks off on that one making the track less powerful. But on all four songs, the music is just crazy stuff. This band would've fit in well on the Chords of the Grave disc that Blastbeats put out a few years ago. They kinda remind me of a cross between Disencumbrance, Obliteration, and Metanoia (slightly). Anyways, it's good stuff.
I'm not really sure which band that I enjoy more on this disc. It kinda depends on what day it is. Regardless, this is one that death metal fans should seriously consider picking up. For more info, go to www.sotdrecords.com. (Review by Matt)