April 7, 2008 | | 4.5

Lair of the Minotaur, War Metal Battle Master

The violent kings of sludgy thrash metal Lair of the Minotaur are back with another bloody offering in War Metal Battle Master. This thing is a thick, bludgeoning affair — like a well worn battle ax to the back of the skull. There seems to be a renewed ferocity in this latest effort from the Chicago, Illinois outfit. And I can’t think of a better title to represent the aggressive, in-your-face nature of the music encompassed within the eight tracks on this disc. You’ll definitely need a broadsword present when playing this one loud.

Utilizing a combination of hardcore and metal vocal deliveries, lead singer/guitarist Steven Rathbone spits out vehemence and aggression like a beat down victim spits out teeth. His delivery, with no disrespect to the amazing talents of the rest of the band, really set this album on edge and apart from their previous material. With regard to the rest of the band, bassist Donald James Barraca and newly recruited drummer Chris Wozniak lay down utterly devastating rhythms and beats with enough emphasis to level mythological city after mythological city.

Horde of Undead Vengeance
The opening track starts the album off with pummeling beats and thrashing riffs. Rathbone’s vocals are more than enough to let you know that the band means business. I love the guitar, drum work combo at the 2:40 mark before it devolves into more unrelenting thrash bludgeoning.

War Metal Battle Master
The title track starts off with a brief battle sound clip before it erupts with a fury of pent up aggressions. This this is violent in every aspect from the vehement vocals to the skull crushing rhythms all the way back to the spine rupturing riffing. If you’re neck isn’t sore after this track, you aren’t nearly head banging hard enough. There seems to be a bit more structure to the tracks on this album as opposed to the band’s last release material — it definitely involves the listener a good deal more.

When The Ice Giants Slayed All
The shortest track on the album (3:08) starts with some creative drum work as gnarly riffs join in shortly after. There is a great chugging groove slithering its way throughout “When The Ice Giants Slayed All.” Creative guitar work and beefy rhythms are the key to this one’s success. It ends just as strongly as it began.

Slaughter the Bestial Legion
“Slaughter the Bestial Legion” has some great riffing to get it going as mid-tempo rhythms welcome Rathbone’s vocals. I love the galloping into battle feel of this one. This is another neck sprainer, so be well prepared for technical tempo changes and chaotic blasts.

Black Viper Barbarian Clan
Sick guitar work and chaotic drums get this one moving along at a brisk pace. Cranial denting rhythms accompany aggressive vocals and maddening riffs. This is another prime example of the band’s improved writing. Layered vocals are a welcome addition to the mix, as well.

Assassins of the Cursed Mist
An infectious riff and beat start off “Assassins of the Cursed Mist” as the vocals kick in with plenty of hate to fuel hell’s napalm. There’s a slick groove throughout this track as the boys smoothly work their way through various tempo shifts and catchy riffs. I love the slight breakdown and guitar work at the 2:40 mark.

At just under 10 minutes in length, “Doomtrooper” is one hell of an epic track. It starts off with some keyboard work (could be a sample) that gives you the mental image of an expansive battle scene through the low light morning mist. The theatrical elements last about a minute before a sludgy riff pushes the cinematic scene from your mind. Thick, slow riffs sound as though they are plodding through the blood of the fallen of battle. This one has a very dark feel with crunchy riffs and guttural growls. The pace is picked up here and there to emphasize a message, but overall this is a slow moving, monolith of a song. I love it!

Hades Unleashed
The final song on the album continues the previous tracks crushing riffs, but bring in some great guitar work at the beginning. At about the 35 second mark a sick thrash riff gets going as the drums build to a frenzy. Rathbone’s vocals come in shortly after as the pace is brought up to battle speeds with spiraling riffs and heavy handed drum work. Check out the growl and tempo shift at the 3:20 mark before Lair shift speeds into wolvey berserker style and lay waste to the field.

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Combining some of their heaviest writing to date with an amazing production, War Metal Battle Master is hand down the strongest Lair of the Minotaur release to date. It’s packed full of warrior fueled fury, aggression and creativity to match. This thing is chugging thrash goodness turned up to eleven.

Favorite Tracks:
Fucking all of them

Additional Notes: