It will take roughly 20-30 seconds of Carnage for you to come to the conclusion that it's no surprise that Lair of the Minotaur's debut ended up on Southern Lord Records. Oddly enough, this is actually a re-released effort, a vinyl version of the album that featured only six tracks. So it's quite a treat to have this version for two reasons: it's actually in print and it contains two bonus tracks.
Carnage is an apt title for the debut release from Lair of the Minotaur. The album opens with a stunning display of pure unadulterated metal. That is to say, "Carnage Fucking Carnage" is an interesting blend of musical styles, taking elements of early thrash/death metal like Beneath the Remains-era Sepultura and twisting it with a hint of stoner rock akin to Clutch. "The Wolf" is the choice cut of the album, there's no doubt about that. The track features speeding thrash riffs of guitarist/vocalist Steven Rathbone. As throughout the album, his vocals often are reminiscent of Slayer front man Tom Araya.
The tracks "Enemy of Gods," "Warlord," and "Burning Temple" are perfect examples of the band drawing influence from well into the past. These songs featuring slow churning and down-tuned sludgy riffs that were likely borrowed from Black Sabbath, though I have no specific evidence. The album does has its rough spots, though. For instance, "Lion Killer," which features particularly slow moving riffs and shrieking vocals, is a rather un-listenable track. In fact, it actually made me cringe.
Throughout Carnage, drummer Larry Herweg, who is also a member of post-rock/doom metal hybrid Pelican, showcases his expansive knowledge of the kit by executing double bass, a variety of drum fills, and an array of other maneuvers. The bass playing of James Barraca, on the other hand, is practically non-existent. However this is most likely due to the rough production, which purposely pays homage to the metal acts the band draws influence from.
Undoubtedly, Lair of the Minotaur is going to have their fair share of naysayers. This is not a surprise, for metal of this nature isn't heard much these days. And while the music dates back to the late 80's and early 90's, it's not something to be forgotten. Several prominent metal acts gained cult followings during that span of time: Slayer, Overkill, and Celtic Frost to name a few.
Perhaps the most intriguing element of Carnage is the lyrical content. Rathbone concentrates the bulk of his prose towards re-creating his own twisted tales based on mythological characters. Furthering the imagery of these lyrics is the detailed layout full of colorful images of the savage Minotaur.
The bottom line for Lair of the Minotaur is this: The name is really fucking cool. The music is heavy. But if you don't enjoy the names mentioned throughout this review I wouldn't recommend picking up Carnage, as your poor ears probably can't handle music of this magnitude.
7.0 / 10
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