Sound: The '90s were a dark, depressing time for many thrash bands. Groove and grunge had reared their ugly mugs and many older thrash bands neglected their roots (I'm looking at you Metallica!) in favour of the new trends. With the exception of Exhorder and two Pantera records, groove metal was an abomination and thrash looked set to die. Except Demolition Hammer had other plans, and after their thunderous debut 'Tortured Existence' in 1991, they decided to do something about it. The result is 'Epidemic of Violence', the heaviest album ever created. If you thought 'Tortured Existence' was harsh and unforgiving, you may want a bottle of oxygen because the New York thrashers' second album is utterly relentless! Kicking off with the brilliantly titled 'Skull Fracturing Nightmare', your skull is fractured within 20 seconds of such a malicious onslaught of brutality, the riffs engulf your brain in fire and the drums punch you in the face with the brute force of... well, a demolition hammer. The magical and almost impossible thing is, the band keeps this pace going for the duration of the whole album (with the exception of a short break in 'Envenomed') and without a single songwriting glitch. The band delivers the epitome of 'earth shatteringly heavy' with 'Human Dissection', a song that needs to be heard to be believed. Hear those bass drums? Thats the work of one Mr. Vinny Daze (R.I.P) who is by far one of the most underrated drummers ever. If anything, Vinny is half the reason 'Epidemic of Violence' is so spectacular - yes, everything else is top notch too ut without Vinny's constant gatling-gun drumwork this album would probably be classed as a sub-par Kreator clone to many. Songs like 'Pyroclastic Annihilation', 'Omnivore' and 'Aborticide' are pulled off with extremely tight precision, and the songs themselves are constructed in a superb manner. No repetitive 'verse-chorus-verse-chorus-etc' here, the band throws in plenty of tempo changes, time signature switches and a slightly progressive edge to their songs, which helps keep everything fresh. Guitarists James Reilly and Derek Sykes have progressed as players from 'Tortured Existence', now playing faster, heavier, more technical material with their brilliant solos still intact. Some of the riffs - especially those in 'Human Dissection' and the title track - are everything that their previous album was composed of only better somehow. Which is an astonishing achievement in itself. Steve Reynolds' voice has improved slightly too, now sounding much more confident with an even angrier snarl than before. As for the mix, everything is 100% perfect. If anyone can find a problem with the sound on this record, I'll eat my own arm - a much more bass heavy, yet clearer mix compared to 'Tortured Existence' but a sound that would only work for Demolition Hammer. But some people may want to steer clear of this album - I've heard stores of Metallica fans spontaneously combusting within half a minute of hearing 'Human Dissection'. // 10
Lyrics: As I just mentioned, Steve's voice is much improved upon his performance on the previous album. A much more confident frontman who has obviously put a lot of effort into his voice, and its a terrifying perfomance through and through. Lyrically, the album is the height of intelligence - the album's themes are your usual death/thrash metal affair, but the lyrics - written by James and Steve - are masterfully crafted. None of this 'I raped you then killed you' stuff, these boys went the extra mile for a more poetic, yet still incredibly disturbing set of lyrics for each song. With themes such as death, torture, violence and dinosaurs (THATS how awesome they are!) your expectations would be pretty low, but this band excels in the lyrics department. // 10
Overall Impression: I think I've made it perfectly clear how fantastic this album is, but in case you didn't get the message I'll say it once more - Demolition Hammer's 'Epidemic of Violence' is the heaviest album ever. Sunk in now? The title of the album truely describes the band and their sound, this album is a relentless assault of grinding guitars, venomous vocals and devastating drums. A lot of people would call Cannibal Corpse, Napalm Death or Dark Angel heavy or brutal, but they've blatently not listened to this album. No standouts inparitcuar here, but my personal favourites are 'Human Dissection' and 'Aborticide', though the entire album is so magnificent that it must be heard to be believed. Everyone said thrash died in the '90s, Demolition Hammer proved that thrash was very much alive and still as deadly as it was the day it emerged. 'Epidemic of Violence' (or should that be Epic-Demic) is an essential alum for fans of heavy music. Warning - may fracture skulls.
'Epidemic of Violence' was released in 1992 on Century Media, then reissued and remastered in 2008 with live tracks. // 10