Solus Universal Bloodshed

Canadian metal has come a long way since the glory days of Anvil, Voivod and Gorguts, and Toronto's Solus now rides the golden toboggan down the slopes of success. Their thrash-happy debut, 1996's Slave Of Mind, saw these growling Canuckleheads crushing in their infancy, but nothing could've primed the world for the smothering brutality of Universal Bloodshed, a primary example of modern metal ingenuity. Death metal's staying power often comes down to vocals and guitars, and Solus has a surplus of both in lead throat Will Korbut and six-string slinger Derek Harnanansingh. "Independent Eye" (co-written by Martin Popoff, author of Collectors Guide To Heavy Metal) sports Cannibal Corpse-like guitar flutters then Harnanansingh's magnificent Cynic-al solo. The quiet intro of "Milestone" is very tech/prog, recalling Odium-era Morgoth, with Korbut's excellent clean vocals. "Rivers Of Red" features the high-pitched screams of bassist John Fenton during the choruses. Korbut's gravely warmth in the acoustic "Naivete (Part I)" fully complements his growls later in the tune. The superb "Quilt Of Shame" (re-recorded from 1998's Our Frosting Hell EP) is included here, and the album ends after an unaccredited bonus track of grind mayhem. The whole package is undeniably grand, right down to Popoff's sombre cover art. Until Dwell Records releases the band's shredding version of the classic Death song "Defensive Personalities" (from Spiritual Healing) on the label's Death tribute album sometime this year, Solus stands alone in incorporating Cynic/Sadus/Death-tech/prog stylings into pure, guttural death. (Skinmask)