Usurper Necronemesis

Chicago's Usurper was a faceless death act until the release of 1998's Usurper II: Skeletal Season, which pushed the band slightly ahead of the pack. Necronemesis thankfully puts even more distance between Usurper and their Cookie Monster/blastbeat-only past. "The Incubus Breed" starts out slow and calculated, like the intro of Slayer's "Jesus Saves," before front man Diabolical Slaughter approaches the growls of Obituary's John Tardy. The aptly titled "Slaughterstorm" is death-y speed punk, while the instrumental "In Remembrance" displays the acoustic chops of guitarist Rick "Rigor" Scythe. The title track features the famous falsetto of King Diamond himself, smartly inserted as backing vocals and not abused. "1666 AD" lends much to Celtic Frost (right down to the T.G. Warrior-like death grunts), while "Warriors Of Iron And Rust" mixes Frost with Slayer's "Angel Of Death." The band even dips into melodic Euro-metal in "Funeral Waters" before invoking Grave with "Into The Oblong Box" (which also includes a few minutes of bass/grunting loops after almost half an hour of unnecessary digital silence). Usurper certainly lives up to their name by appropriating old-school metal, and when their derivatives are Slayer and Frost, who's complaining? (Necropolis)