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CRIMSON THORN - Unearthed (Limited Run Vinyl/Gold Disc Edition)

Crimson Thorn formed in 1991 in Minneapolis as a 5-piece death metal band and the initial style of their 1993 Plagued demo was a mixture of death metal and Metallica-like thrash metal. However, of the 5 original members, only Luke Renno (bass, vocals) and Miles Sunde (guitars) are still active with the band. Kevin Sundbery – known for his machine-gun blast-beats – replaced the original drummer sometime before the release of Unearthed and remained during the '90s and early 2000's era which is when the band released their 3 full-length studio albums – Unearthed (1994,1995), Dissection (1997), Purification (2002). And it was on Unearthed, with the line-up changes, where they switched to a death metal style akin to that of early Mortification with low, guttural vocals and blast-beat drumming.

This cover artwork was originally featured on the R.E.X. Records issue from 1995 and was superior to that from the original 1994 Atomic Records issue (pictured below). Certainly, the depiction of the human "carcass" had the shock-factor associated with death metal circa 1995, and it certainly fit better within the framework of the album's lyrical observations. It has been enhanced by Scott Waters with subtle “reflective” improvements in the album title and sharpening of the band logo. This first-time on vinyl features the original tracks from the 1995 R.E.X. Records release remastered for vinyl by Rob Colwell. The Gold Series Edition CD (#3 in the series) which has been released in conjunction with the vinyl features new 8-page booklet and the 7 songs from the Plagued demo, which have also been remastered. Not surprisingly, it all looks and sounds spectacular.

The Vinyl

Unearthed is an aptly named album, and one well suited to the visceral, sensory-laden quality of vinyl. In a way, this an old-school metal album – its just 3 guys laying it down thick and heavy as fast and as heavy as humanly possible. Its raw power driven by sweat and grit – a flesh-driven metal machine powered by raw muscle memory and a strong conviction in the promises and tenants of the Lord. When you listen to these songs, there is no holding - back, its full-on pedal to the metal! The death-y guitar rhythms from start to finish are relentless – there aren’t any tracks on this album where you can pause and come up for air. These songs cover so many spiritual realities within the first 10 minutes it will have your head reeling and your soul mourning.

This vinyl remaster is something to behold. The sound pulsating from the speakers is almost unbelievable for a death metal release. Never before have I heard this kind of articulation of sound in an extreme metal release. It’s like the vocals are so clear and they stand literally out "in front" of the speakers – Renno’s guttural exegesis harsh yet discernible in uncanny fashion. The guitars seem to step back in the mix during the vocal outpourings and then jump to the front of the house in crushing fashion during the breaks. Sundbery’s alternations between double bass and straight two-handed blasting are simply obliterating. And, overall, the balance between drums, guitars and vocals is perfect with no one instrument dominating, yet all of them are equally represented. The band boasted no overdubs or effects on the vocals – its brutal and raw. Needless to say it’s so refreshing to hear this kind of a recording in the current era of over-processed metal.

Lyrically, there is no denying the stance of this band – these guys are full on Christ, and as brutal is the music, so are the words (I love visceral lyrics!).

“…and if you don’t do it with your carcasses, you do it with your mind!” - “Your Carcass”

This song accurately portrays the struggle between flesh/mind and spirit -

“O wretched man that I am/Who shall deliver me from this carcass of death – Jesus”

“Asphyxiated” is not only a crushing song musically, but these words are equally relentless in the truth they espouse –

“Slowly rotting – into a useless crusade of sin/You have fallen away/Scrounging to make your own way/Life seem fun when you’re on the run/But soon you’ll see your judgment day.”

“Malignant Masters” masterfully points out the folly of our educational leaders. What was somewhat debated in the mid ‘90's is now without dispute as universities openly condemn belief in God. These words seem prophetic now some 25 years later -

“Self-appointed wise men/Who are truly only fools/With diplomas and degrees/And higher learning as their mask/Divine truths are slowly smothered/They’ve accomplished their vile task”

And perhaps the finest moment of all comes during “Comatose” – one of the most musically dynamic and progressive songs here. I love the lulling guitar lead during the intro which then builds into an inferno of death metal riffing, ebbing and flowing in intensity and speed as it rushes toward the chilling culmination in the chorus section -

“Comatose your infested body lies awake/comatose souls deprived of spiritual food/Comatose this unconscious decision slowly contaminates you”

Amidst all this “fervid vocility” (copped from Tourniquet’s “Impending Embolism”), it remains important to verbalize what seems most relevant and vital to this examination – this recording sounds amazing on this multi-colored slab of plastic. There is little to no surface noise – audiophile quality with a few “pops” here and there mostly between songs. The only criticism I have at this point in the series is that many of these “random” color vinyl are starting to look the same. But in all seriousness, if you love death metal from an overtly Christian perspective – pick this up HERE before your carcass is falling off your bones!

The Gold Disc Edition CD

The gold CD (this one #3 in series behind Deliverance’s Stay of Execution and Sixpence None The Richer’s This Beautiful Mess) is quite striking in appearance, but I will leave the debate as to whether gold-plated CDs sound better than silver or aluminum-plated CDs to those more qualified. My understanding is that the quality of the remaster has always been more important than the coating of the CD. The booklet has been nicely reworked by Scott Waters – the lyrics now very easy to read – and I am a fan of the Gold Edition banner on the front cover. I don’t have the old digital files to compare, so I can’t honestly say if this CD sounds better than the original R.E.X. issue, but I can say it sounds well-balanced, yet not near as strikingly dynamic as the vinyl master.

Most importantly, the Gold Edition CD contains bonus tracks in the form of the original 1993 Plagued demo, which I assume has been remastered as well because it sounds pretty darn excellent for demo quality material. I’ve never heard these songs prior to this release, but the sound quality if very respectable. Crimson Thorn employed a different vocal style on these songs. In contrast to the guttural low-end monster vocals of Unearthed, the vocals are harsh, yet more reminiscent of late 80’s thrash. The guitars and drums sound like a combination of Anthrax and Metallica and some of the songs are quite long, with guitar solos and fast tom drum fills. The music is great, but not very original. In fact, some of these riffs seem a bit too close for my tastes to original Metallica tracks. Song titles like “Perverse Policies” and “Misrepresented Representatives” call to mind the wit and cynicism of Megadeth. The open guitar section in this latter song totally cops Metallica. Still it is obvious that these guys could clearly throw it down, and for demo material its quite good and I think many would also like to see Plagued receive vinyl treatment. Note: the lyrics to the demo songs are not included in the booklet. Nevertheless, the demo tracks definitely make getting this new CD version more compelling. Click HERE to capture the gold!

Track Listing LP:

Side A

1. Unearthed (3:18)

2. Decrepit (3:27)

3. Cultivate Decay (4:01)

4. Ignorant (3:00)

5. Your Carcass (2:52)

6. Asphyxiated (3:24)

Side B

1. Malignant Masters (3:31)

2. Defaced (3:05)

3. Comatose (5:23)

4. Imminent Wrath (2:22)

5. No Exceptions (2:31)

Track Listing CD:

1. Unearthed (3:18)

2. Decrepit (3:27)

3. Cultivate Decay (4:01)

4. Ignorant (3:00)

5. Your Carcass (2:52)

6. Asphyxiated (3:24)

7. Malignant Masters (3:31)

8. Defaced (3:05)

9. Comatose (5:23)

10. Imminent Wrath (2:22)

11. No Exceptions (2:31)

Bonus (Plagued Demo)

12. Perverse Policies (8:21)

13. Misrepresented Representations (5:32)

14. Prophet of Death (4:30)

15. Crimson Thorn (3:45)

16. Plagued (6:55)

17. Corruption of the Flesh (4:06)

18. No Suicide (2:18)

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