Death (Metal) by Genericide
Massacre formed in Florida in 1984, during the decrepit infancy of the death metal genre. Since then, then band has cycled through over a dozen members, broken up and reformed a number of times, and released three full-length albums (including their latest). Over the decades, Massacre has become perhaps more known for sharing members with influential bands—Death, Obituary and Six Feet Under, among others—than for being one themselves. Nonetheless, Massacre got some semblance of the gang back together in 2011. Riding a wave of momentum from a successful appearance on the 2012 70,000 Tons of Metal Cruise/Music Festival, Massacre decided to record a new studio album—Back From Beyond.
There is no doubt that Massacre are old hands. Listening to Back From Beyond is like watching a team of veteran carpenters deftly assemble a toolshed. The death metal signifiers jump out immediately. Rick Rozz’s guitar is loud and crunchy with distortion. Terry Butler’s bass is deep and supportive. Mike Mazzonetto’s drumming is textured—full of double bass runs and other accents. Ed Webb’s vocals are harsh and urgent, but intelligible. Massacre’s overall sound is pleasantly cavernous. The sense of space ties the performances together nicely—a feature that is often neglected on heavily-processed modern metal recordings.
Musically, Massacre draw from a well-established palette. There are riff-driven, mid-tempo sections of morbid exposition—which range from tedious to headbang-worthy—and fun, fast, bouncy thrash sections. Rozz’s guitar solos are a hoot throughout, erupting with squealing, vibrato aplomb before shredding, moaning, and keening gleefully to their conclusions. One would be tempted to imagine musicians of Massacre’s age phoning it in, but they rise to the occasion, imbuing the songs on Back From Beyond with enthusiasm and expertise.
However, Back From Beyond’s deeply boilerplate themes and lyrics (death, rotting corpses, war, decay, sickness, politics, religion, ancient empires, etc.) reveal the elephant in the room: Back From Beyond is an extremely generic album. Heavy metal has become a fertile ground for fearless experimentation, so to hear a release this paint-by-numbers in 2014 is confounding. This might not bother traditionalists and those new to the genre, but those seeking novel sounds will be scratching their heads until they press the “stop” button.
In certain stores, one can purchase a baseball cap that—instead of bearing an official team logo—features a generic rendition of a man hitting a baseball. Such a hat may arouse smirks from strangers or sarcastic compliments from friends. However, it will still offer a defense against the sun. The brim will still attain that immaculate curve as it’s repeatedly and lovingly flexed between hands. There are always more innovative, more uniquely designed hats out there for the serious fan, but sometimes one just wants to put on something familiar and utilitarian. Back from Beyond is that old, familiar hat.