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When the Sky Turns Black (1995)

Brutality was formed in the late 80s, in Florida. They played with many well known bands, such as Obituary, Malevolent Creation and Hypocrisy. After releasing the brilliant debut album, Screams of Anguish, they began work on their sophomore effort, When the Sky Turns Black. This album (and its predecessor) is leagues beyond anything else that came out of Florida, around that time.

Let's take a look at some of the competition. 1994 saw the release of Obituary's World Demise and The Bleeding from Cannibal Corpse. Obituary's best days were long behind them and, though Cannibal Corpse managed to put together their best album (which isn't saying much), it still pales in comparison to what Brutality was doing. Brutality was a victim of the explosion of death metal bands in the early 90s, but they were far superior to many of them, especially other American bands. Perhaps their more intelligent lyrics weren't shocking enough to draw the attention that Cannibal Corpse garnered. Whatever the case, Brutality managed to release three incredible albums that should never be forgotten.

The title track opens with brilliant tremolo riffs and powerful vocals. The song is somewhat mid-paced, but it's hard to say since the song goes through so much of a progression. The album was recorded at Morrisound, but it's not apparent by listening to it. The production fits the music very well and it has its own identity.

"Race Defects" begins with a quiet, acoustic piece, before blastbeats and tremolo riffs come in. Many of the riffs that this band utilizes would actually make very good black metal melodies but this is definitely death metal. In some ways, it seems more similar to European death metal, rather than their neighbors in Florida. Again, the song varies in tempo from midpaced to extremely fast. And they show one more skill that seems lost on a band such as Cannibal Corpse or Deicide: they play excellent, meaningful solos. Instead of throwing something in, for the sake of doing so, they have taken their time to write very good songs. Nothing is rushed, here.

The listener gets some relief from the violence of the last song as "Awakening" is a quiet instrumental piece. It works well to create a somber atmosphere. In a way, it is like the calm before the storm.

The next song is an amazing cover version of Black Sabbath's "Electric Funeral" and is one of the very few cover songs that I prefer over the original. It is very well done and stays true to the original while also fitting in, perfectly, with the rest of the album. This was actually the first Brutality song that I ever heard. I was hanging out at my best friend's house on a Thursday night, listening to "The Haunted Mansion". By Saturday, I went to find this album. I failed to locate this one, but I did find their new one (at the time), In Mourning. I would eventually have to order this one from Nuclear Blast, since I never could find it on the shelves.

After the epic Sabbath worship, next up is "Foul Lair". This song begins with an incredible solo and mid-paced riffs befitting a Celtic Frost song. Again, the guitarist employs tremolo riffs over a very slow drum beat to create an epic atmosphere. As with the rest of the album, the pace changes at just the right moments. The songs progress, naturally, never feeling forced. Another brilliant solo is to be found in this song. Nothing complicated, but filled with mournful melody. Much like the cover art, that depicts demons hiding in the shadows and waiting for the sun to set, the music creates a very dark atmosphere.

"Screams of Anguish" begins with a chorus of Hellish screams. The song is filled with bludgeoning riffs and remains consistent with the feeling that is conveyed. This song also contains some typical death metal groove riffs that I don't find to be terribly useful.

Next is another instrumental, "Esoteric" which is similar to the previous one, in atmosphere. It is very gloomy and almost fools the heartbeats of the listener to slow down...

Then the next song attacks with fury and vengeance. "Artistic Butchery" lives up to its title. At this point, one really has to wonder why the Hell this band was, seemingly, overlooked in favor of inferior groups. Malevolent Creation, Cannibal Corpse, Deicide and Obituary (to name a few of their peers) were all creatively bankrupt by this point yet they maintained the spotlight.

"Violent Generation" signals the impending end and features a lot of interesting riffs. This is yet another instrumental but, unlike the previous interludes, this is a full-on assault on the senses.

The album closes with "Shrine of the Master". Beginning with vicious riffs and a solo that would fit in on an old Testament album, the band truly lives up to its name. With that said, this song seems to be filler. The best riffs from this one and "Artistic Butchery" probably could have been combined to make one song that was better than both of these. "Side A" is probably better than "Side B" but that is a minor complaint.

For any fan of early 90s death metal, I recommend that you seek out any Brutality album that you can find. This one ranks just below the debut album, yet it is still much better than many of the better known death metal albums from this period.

(6 Sept. 2008)

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