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CD Review: SEVERE TORTURE – Sworn Vengeance

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severetorture swornvengeanceSevere Torture has come a long way since "Decomposing Bitch."  That, um, composition graced its first record, 2000's Feasting on Blood.  Essentially Cannibal Corpse clones then, the Dutch band has improved in musicianship and vision with each album since.  Sworn Vengeance offers nothing new for death metal, but it's Severe Torture's most assured work yet.

The main change from before is streamlining.  Severe Torture is now a well-oiled machine.  No note is out of place.  Guitars and drums mesh in perfect lockstep, recalling the synchronicity of early Fear Factory.  Such efficiency is almost sterile, as the band lacks the rawness that made its debut so tasty.  The clear, compressed production is heavy and edgeless.  If the sound was a bloody steak before, it's a gourmet burger now.

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"Lean and mean" also describes the songwriting.  Previous album Fall of the Despised had occasional bouts of Morbid Angel-esque weirdness.  Those are gone now in favor of focused riffing.  However, surprising subtleties often pop up.  They've just shifted from the guitars to the rhythm section.  "Buried Hatchet" and "Sworn Vengeance" have charmingly odd bass runs.  "Countless Villains" has crafty, offbeat accents, while "Dogmasomatic Nausea" complements its rising melodies with turbocharged blasting. 

The lyrics are more mature, too, ditching the gore of before.  Now they address psychological issues and the state of the world.  They don't always make sense ("Painful be my destiny / To kill nevermore / Irresistible urge to revive / Every life I took"), but they're a step up from, say "Feces for Jesus."  Like at Abu Ghraib, this Severe Torture is cold and very much calculated.

7/10

Severe Torture on MySpace
Earache Records

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