Usurper – “Lords Of The Permafrost” (Soulseller Records)
Battle Helm Rating
Prepare for decimation – Usurper are back!!! Much to the lamentation of some, while to other roars of euphoria, Chicago’s kings of the underground have returned with their 6th album in “Lords Of The Permafrost”. Still with founders Rick Scythe (guitars) and Joe Warlord (drums), Usurper were formed back in 1992, when extreme metal combining black, thrash, death and heavy metal hadn’t been invented in name, although the style was certainly being fashioned as manifested by the band’s early work, primitive and visceral as it was. Despite folding in 2005 after releasing “Cryptobeast”, demand for Usurper, especially live, has been unrelenting and so it comes as little surprise that the band has returned to the studio, calling back vocalist Dan Tyrantor and shortly after enlisting Project: Tsunami bassist & long-time Usurper fan Scott Maelstrom to step in as their newest member. Clearly recognising the success of bands like Behemoth who have the taken the style into genre of their own, this line up of Usurper have stepped up big time on “Lords Of The Permafrost” in all aspects from technicality to song writing across the 8 tracks here – while keeping to their original ethos of creating atmospheric, memorable and brutal songs. From ‘Cemetery Wolf’ that’s certainly true thanks to Scythe’s dirty, crunching guitar dribbling dark melodies alongside heavy, brutal riffs conspiring with the pummelling tom work of Warlord to create the menace that Tyrantor drawls over unhurriedly, as the song builds before exploding into a catchy razor riffing headbanging groove – and ending with a howling wolf call naturally! Speeding into ‘Warlock Moon’ Tyrantor roars over the hyper speed pedalling, cymbal frenzy and slide riffing before the song hammers in another massive groove, all slickly timed to the varied tones of the vocalist – unleashing an absolute banshee of a scream – before a cascade of drums rolls, down tuned riffs and wails ends the number. On ‘Gargoyle’ it’s more of a mid tempo gallop with even some folky melodies added before the aptly named Maelstrom brings his thunderous bass to bear as Usurper attempt (and succeed) in a singalong chorus as Warlord goes into a background drum frenzy before Scythe’s solo proves that it is as malevolent as it is rock n roll – awesome! Stronger than before and musically superior to any past line-ups, prepare for the return of Chicago’s dark heavy metal horror monsters.