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War Metal Battle Master

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Album Review

For their third album, 2008's War Metal Battle Master, Chicago's Lair of the Minotaur have clearly taken measures to make their sound just a little bit heavier, chunkier, more forcefully in-your-face, if you will — no, really! Incredible as that may seem considering the rampant, yak-leveling brutality of their earlier efforts, here the ruthless trio and their habitual producer Sanford Parker (Pelican, Rwake, Unearthly Trance, etc.) somehow come up with novel ways to bludgeon implausible savage heavy metal out of three hapless instruments and an innocent pair of lungs. Those lungs belong to demonically possessed vocalist and guitarist Steven Rathbone, naturally, and the sheer recklessness with which he croaks the band's trademark D&D lyrics (which, for the first time, aren't always overtly based on Greek mythology) is matched only by the merciless attack perpetrated against his six-string. This belches forth some of the dirtiest, most devastating riffs of the band's career (with muted strumming so fierce that the scratch of pick against string often overpowers the actual chord harmonies) on such all-consuming thrashers as opening cyclone, "Horde of Undead Vengeance," the resolutely austere "Black Viper Barbarian Clan," (reminiscent of Swedish metal Vikings Unleashed), and the raging title track (which appropriates the riff from Metallica's "Fight Fire with Fire"). Despite the equally aggressive foundation laid down by Donald James Barraca's rattle-head bass and Chris Wozniak's war drums, Lair of the Minotaur do shift into slightly slower tempos with nearly as much imagination (if not the same power) for spectacularly named nuggets like "When the Ice Giants Slayed All," "Slaughter the Bestial Legion," and "Assassins of the Cursed Mist," which actually contradicts its title with a predominantly 4-4 beat and more restrained performance that's as close as Lair of the Minotaur have ever come to straight-up rock & roll song structures. As we near the album's conclusion, the band once again makes room for that one, by now almost requisite, descent into the slothful depths of doom via the aptly named, nine-minute-plus colossus "Doomtrooper," offering both a welcome dynamic change and a perfect chance to catch one's breath before the final, cataclysmic fury of closing apocalypse, "Hades Unleashed." What else is left to say other than to get your suit of armor out of the closet, don't forget to bring your sword or rusty battle axe, and get ready to shed plenty of blood with the gang from Lair of the Minotaur.


Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s

Chicago's Lair of the Minotaur was formed in spring of 2003 by former 7000 Dying Rats members Steven Rathbone (vocals/guitar) and Donald James Barraca, along with Pelican drummer Larry Herweg. Inspired by the vulgar, misanthropic, proto-black metal pioneered decades earlier by the likes of Venom and Hellhammer, then adding lyrics based on classic Hellenic mythology, the trio produced a six-song EP later that year and quickly found a home with Southern Lord Records. Their full-length debut, Carnage,...
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War Metal Battle Master, Lair of the Minotaur
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