Massacre Back From Beyond

Massacre Back From Beyond
Analyzing their history, it's easy to cast stones at Tampa's old-school USDM outfit Massacre. Frontman Kam Lee and guitarist Rick Rozz were part of the original line-up of Mantas, Chuck Schuldiner's pre-Death (and proto-death metal) band in 1983. A few years later, Rozz, bassist Terry Butler and drummer Bill Andrews were tapped to record Death's Leprosy in 1988 and Spiritual Healing (without Rozz) in 1990. Departing Death, they formed Massacre and released 1991's From Beyond, acclaimed as a solid if formulaic addition to the Florida death metal canon of the time.

These one-hit wonders — one-and-a-half, to be fair, counting 1992's Inhuman Condition EP — have endured their share of ups and downs, including the usual line-up changes, an archetypal sophomore jinx (1996's Promise, whose album art resembled the cover of Black Sabbath's 1987 plague-worthy The Eternal Idol, if that's any indication), and a handful of one-off reunion shows. Twenty-plus years later, a Kam Lee-less Massacre released 2012's Condemned to the Shadows EP, a promising effort that is now seeing a proper follow-up with the decidedly retro Back From Beyond, complete with Ed Repka's redux alien-funhouse-vortex album art.

Chock full of chunky riffs upon which Six Feet Under built their entire career, "As We Wait to Die," "Sands of Time" and "Succumb to Rapture" usher in the Massacre of yore, as Generichrist/Diabolic throat Ed Webb fills Kam Lee's shoes well enough (though Lee's vox were lower and more guttural). "Ascension of the Deceased," "Darkness Fell" and "The Evil Within" boast Rozz's massive chord-bending, Allen West-style solos, while "Beast with Vengeance" and the burly title track have plenty of Obituary-isms to keep fans sated.

Sure, the Massacre pundits will still hurl terms like "stagnation," "also-rans" and the exhausted "It's not Massacre without Kam Lee," but the throwback Back From Beyond is a valiant stab at past glories. Though they weren't included on any Most Anticipated Albums of 2014 lists, Massacre will certainly chart on more than a few year-end best-of tallies. (Century Media)