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Oblivion - Cyclogenesis: Songs For Armageddon

Cyclogeneis: Songs For Armageddon
by Devin C. Baker at 20 February 2017, 12:09 PM

So, even if you burn with a curious passion for 1980s New Jersey Thrash/Crossover, a 35-song double-disc can be a lot to swallow. Well, that's what the relaunched OBLIVION have unleashed upon the hessian legions with the release of “Cyclogenesis: Songs For Armageddon”. Don't fret, it's not some grandiose goombah-Wagner-esque statement piece, rather an assembly of the band's seven demos, released between 1985 and 1990. For die-hard retro-thrash collectors, this will likely be a purchase made for the sake of completism, but a casual fan with some patience—because, let's face it, even remastered, some of these locally produced artifacts can harsh the tympanic membrane after a while—can get a glimpse of a group who represent a whole lot of hard-working, talented dudes who missed the cut in the great 80s thrash explosion.

The demos are compiled in reverse chronological order, starting with 1990's “Contents Under Pressure”, whose six songs one could assume represent the pinnacle of OBLIVION’s abilities. This stuff is plenty rough, despite its obvious skill and quality, and you can begin to see that major labels were likely not convinced these boots could be shined up. Guitars are tone-thin (too much pedal, too little amp), bass is nearly non-existent, but hell, yes those drums are bell-clear, so the headbanging may ensue. The opener, “Scarred For Life” exemplifies their knack for a ponderous intro before kicking in the whiplash; follower “Blind Faith” opens with an off-putting, staggering, syncopated chug before unleashing the hounds. Nifty, stylish intro, followed by spinal trauma—it's a thing they did, and they did it well.

Structurally, their material is of the rapid-fire, Hardcore-inspired bang'n'bark variety, but on this demo they make good use of the moments surrounding the meat–intros, bridges and stuff–to show off some artful, brainy instrumental chops.  While songs' guts often smack of S.O.D. or WEHRMACHT, the ancillary moments hint at a deeper musical capacity, though one thing you won't hear is a mind-blowing solo, the leads are mostly just pretty good. Too bad, then, that the weak link seems always to be the vocals. There's never a shred of melody, just shouting in a vaguely NUCLEAR ASSAULT range, but lacking that band's melodic flair. And while an aggressive, Punky bark worked great for CRYPTIC SLAUGHER’s Bill Crooks, here they never seem to have enough passion or menace behind them to match the level of the music—which is really too bad, because even though roughly produced, this is some balls-out, breakneck Thrash.

The second six tracks here, the 1989 demo “Why Did Johnny Kill” are actually my favorites, having a fuller production and an overall brighter energy. The titular track rocks a more patient tempo than most of the stuff here, and even features a modicum of melody to the vocal as it slogs through its tale. Also notable are “Carnage” and “Contents Under Pressure”, both of which cut to the chase without much undue ado, the latter leading off with a thundering bundle of bass. Production on these songs are the best of the two discs—crisp but well rounded, nicely filling out the stereo image, and with the vocals situated perfectly in the mix. That and the touches of tonality make for the best vocals of the collection.

The further back in time you go in this compilation, the rougher things get from a production standpoint. The first six tunes of Disc 2, 1988's demo “Intoxicated With Agony” are over bright; so hot there's audible clipping all over the place. Still, you hear a band a few years into their career reaching for artful touches amid the bombast. “Bitch” opens with some delicate acoustic picking, “Trapped And Refrained” puts some psychedelic phase on the (almost melodic!) vocal, to atmospheric effect, and “Death Of A Martyr” just plain rocks, with a killer little opening riff. Still, though things are a tad sloppy, rhythms fluctuate, and nothing sounds especially tight.

Back even further in the way back machine toward their 1985 debut demo “Intention To Kill” and the above pattern continues: recording gets rougher, songs get more rudimentary, hell sometimes the band is noticeably, audibly out of tune. These songs are still a lot of fun and serve as an outstanding representative artifact of the kind of stuff that was coming out of local scenes nationwide as Punk and Metal intertwined in the 80's.

The riffs are plentiful over these many, many tracks. They're inventive and memorable. OBLIVION had instrumental chops in their 80's heyday, to be sure. Don't mistake my critique of the vocal delivery as a wholesale dismissal, either. They were hardly alone in thinking that this thing called Thrash had no need for the niceities of melodic singing. But with a five-year body of work with this much raw potential and craft, you start looking for those missing x-factors that kept them from gaining a broader audience. This is a big batch of mostly less-than-stellar recordings with plenty of warts, but I still must recommend it unreservedly. If you dig thrash, you'll have no trouble recognizing the quality here, even if you gotta play with your eq a little!

Songwriting: 8
Originality: 7
Memorability: 9
Production: 6

4 Star Rating

Disc 1:

1.Scarred For Life
2.Blind Faith
3.Germ Warfare
5.Involuntary Bio-Conflagration
6.Product Of The Environment
7.Why Did Johnny Kill?
10.Contents Under Pressure
12.Life After Death Row
13.Life After Death Row
14.Portrait Of A Maggot
15.Scales Of Injustice
16.Coup D'Etat
17.No Code (Live)
18.Mind Ripper (Live)

Disc 2:

19.R.I.P.(Rot In Perdition)
21.Trapped And Refrained
22.Death Of A Martyr
23.Waste Of Life
24.Intention To Kill
25.Germ Warfare
26.The Unknown
27.Death Of A Martyr
29.Aftermath/Inflictor Of Pain
31.Intention To Kill
32.Rabid Bestial
33.Aggressive Assault
34.Raised By Fire
35.Life After Death
Bob Petrosino - Bass
Frank Bonanno – Guitar
George Machuga – Vocals
Mike Sica – Guitar
Santo DiBenedetto/Chris Kelly- Drums
Record Label: Divebomb Records


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