I'd love to read a biography of Massacre because they're an important band who managed to lose their place in the spotlight quickly and very effectively. They formed in Florida as far back as 1984 and soon became one of the founding fathers of the Florida death metal style. Yet, their habit of splitting up on days ending in Y kicked in early, so a strong debut album, From Beyond, didn't show up until 1991, after they'd already split up once, and they promptly split up again.
Settle down, kids, because it gets worse. Reforming again, they issued an album so hated that it's struggling with an average rating of only 8% at Metal Archives. And that's with one 40% spiking it upwards! I checked it out on YouTube and it sounded interesting for about thirty seconds before it descended into dreck, as if death metal pioneers had suddenly turned into an amateur high school Pantera clone. They didn't even wait for it to be out to split up that time, they split while recording it, Kam Lee even claiming it's not him on vocals, but they kept on reforming and splitting up again like clockwork, even changing name twice, to Massacre X and then Gods of Death.
And now they're back again, with only their fourth album in thirty-seven years and arguably their third "comeback" album, given titles like Promise, Back from Beyond and now Resurgence. At this point, I'm very wary about diving in but I'm too eager to find out what they sound like nowadays. I liked their debut a lot back in the day and they've fed members to a who's who of extreme bands, from Death, Obituary and Six Feet Under to Kreator, Nasty Savage and Whiplash. So what's Lee up to with his gazillionth line-up of Massacre?
The good news is this that certainly isn't another Promise, I promise. It's actually a pretty decent album, once we get past a Halloween music intro and an oddly sedate opener in Eldritch Prophecy. Ruins of R'lyeh is where it brought back memories of From Beyond. The tone is similar and it's nice and heavy, not buried in downtuned bass but with texture. Lee's vocals are deep and gruff but not overdone, working well as an extra instrument in a mix that allows us to follow each instrument if we choose.
Well, mostly. If I'm reading correctly, there are three guitarists in Massacre nowadays, with Scott Fairfax on lead, long time Kam Lee collaborator Rogga Johansson backing him up and keyboardist Jonny Pettersson doing double duty on a third guitar. I remember when Adrian Smith returned to Iron Maiden but they didn't ditch Janick Gers; now having three guitars felt like a solid expansion to their existing dual guitar sound. This doesn't feel as dense but it still feels agreeably meaty.
The bad news is that, while the band do make a serious attempt to vary the death metal formula and keep the album interesting, that was always an uphill struggle, especially when the attempts they make are within the genre. There's nothing brought in from outside to infuse the genre with originality. Modern production aside, this could have been released back in the genre's heyday. In 1991, this would have been seen as a good indication of what death metal could do but in 2021, it's a day late and a dollar short. The genre has quite simply moved on.
And that sounds more than a little brutal, if that's not an inappropriate pun. Did this album blow me away? No, it didn't. Did it impress me as something new and innovative in a tired genre? That would be a no as well. But did I cringe and laugh at the same time and turn it off after a minute? I didn't. I enjoyed this album throughout, even if mostly as a nostalgic trip into what the genre was and why I appreciated it when it showed up. And hey, was there anything remotely new on the last Cannibal Corpse album? No, there wasn't. This doesn't hit as hard, for sure, but I'd argue that it's more interesting and more worthy of your attention if you want that kick of nostalgia.
So, welcome back, Massacre. Promise turned out to be a bad promise and you weren't able to stay Back from Beyond for long, but this could be a Resurgence. But you'll need to stay together more than half an hour this time and a fifth album in a year or two should contain something new that doesn't betray your genre of choice but does add to it. Best of luck.