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Thanatopsis – Initiation

by Gary Hernandez at 03 November 2020, 2:51 PM

If you recognize the name THANATOPSIS, it could be for several reasons. 1) You’re a fan of William Cullen Bryant who penned a poem of the same title back in 1817 and then revised and republished it several times until it’s definitive version in 1821. The word itself is an amalgamation of two Greek words (“thanatop” and “opsis”) which combined essentially mean “consideration of death.” 2) Because of said meaning, this is an immensely popular name for metal bands, so you might have heard of any number of bands going under the moniker. 3) You were into the East Bay Prog/Death/Thrash Metal scene between 1992 and 1997 and heard one of the many demos from an Oakland, California band of the same name.

Since this is Metal Temple and not Teatime Poetry Corner, we’ll be discussing #3 . . . or, more specifically, their debut full-length album, “Initiation,” which was released on October 23, 2020 on Extreme Metal Music. From what I can tell, seven of the eight tracks are re-recordings of older material and it looks like one track, “Suffer System,” is new. This gives the album an old school vibe but mixed with updated tech, which is way cool . . . but there’s more. I did say old school “vibe,” and I meant it, but there is also a Prog vibe and a Death vibe, too. I have music theory friends who might have a heart attack listening to this album, so be warned.

Lyrically, it’s brutality and ruin alongside socio-political angst. Having trouble imagining what that’s like? Try this from “Suffer System”: “Only the subconscious mind can perceive, you leave me / No choice but to kill.” Or from “Grim”:

“Homicide, genocide – kill the things that we decide
Policies that tax us all – things that we cannot control and thrash
Governed by lunacy – overthrow the hierarchy
All these things taken in sum – we shall overcome”

A devilish mix of evil Death and belligerent Thrash there to help the medicine go down. Yes, I just quoted Mary F’ing Poppins in a metal review.

The guitar work of Dave Couch on this album is devastatingly good. Thom Hall and Jason Adam Borton’s combined rhythm section is like one of those Godzilla movies when all the monsters just rumble in the middle of the city. No building is left standing and the citizens run for shelter in the hills. Also, the bassline on “Initiation.” Someone please keep the mushrooms away from the bassist. I should also note that John Bishop is a consummate Thrash vocalist — gritty and guttural, very shouty but also articulate.

Best tracks? I’ll go with “Initiation,” “Consequence,” and “Suffer System” as my favorites. No real clunkers on this one — the entire album is consistently strong. Also, no synths or symphonic interludes or saxophone solos. Just brutal, brutal metal.

Remember that poet I mentioned in the intro and how he published multiple versions of his most famous poem before he finally got it right? Yeah, well, there’s a steep parallel to this band. We’re talking six demos, two EPs, and one compilation before their debut full-length album. In the end, though, “Initiation” is a helluva an album and worth the wait. Just hoping we get a second dose a lot quicker than we got the first.

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

3 Star Rating

1.  The Age Of Silence
2.  Embodiment
3.  Consequence
4.  Malfated
5.  Initiation
6.  Your Demise
7.  Grim
8.  Suffer System
John Bishop – Vocals
Thom Hall – Bass
Dave Couch – Guitars
Jason Adam Borton – Drums
Record Label: Extreme Metal Music


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Edited 05 June 2023

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