This one was a long time coming, and I think I was hesitant on reviewing an album which was really a labor of love from a good friend of mine. You know, I don't want to hurt feelings or anything but after being given the go ahead to rip and tear stuff to shreds without any kind of consequence I decided to lay out my feelings honestly. To be transparent, I know Joe Potash, guitarist and founder of Horrifier extremely well. I play bass in Primeval Realm, his doom project but I've known Joe for a long time prior to that. I also know bassist Amadeusz pretty well also. Let's just say I'm good friends with the band. With that said "Grim Fate" exhibits the attributes of an album which had a lot going for it but, at least for me, failed to be as gripping as it should have or probably could have been. For many fans of traditional metal though, I could see this being adored universally, and rightly so. Even though I have some minor grievances with some of the subtleties of the album, it's a strong representation of the resurgence of interest in traditional metal here in the United States.
Musicianship on the album is generally spectacular. Everything is cleanly played, excellently recorded and sounds one thousand percent professional. Particularly of note are the solos across the album, showcasing Potash's guitar playing virtuosity. The leads are all well crafted, and revitalizes the later tracks such as "Decisive Victory" and "Grim Fate." Amadeusz and guitarist Joe Hoyer successfully tackle the rhythm section which is rounded out with a myriad array of drummers. Hoyer also has a handful of solos across the album which match up with Potash's as well as I would expect possible from the pool of guitarists we have here in New Jersey. Potash drums on four of the eight tracks. Gary Breza drums on the other four remaining songs and Greg Seymour of Iced Earth notoriety lends some time on the ol' drumaroos during the introduction to the seventh track, "From Beyond The Grave," in a preamble titled "Exordium." The vocal performance of Potash on the album is of varying quality throughout and is the weakest area as far as the musicianship is concerned. Though doubtless the effort and emotion is there, the vocals retain a certain monotone underlayment that sounds stressed and uncomfortable in the role. The addition of more-than-usual amounts of reverb on the vocals for this style of music also adds to the previously mentioned possible lack confidence in his own vocals.
The songs are generally well written with, "Premonition," the third track, being the first real noteworthy track. It follows a slightly repetitive introductory track and second opening song which I have issues with for the purposes of album pacing. Second song "E.B.E.", which is short for Extraterrestrial Biological Entity (The song is about aliens or something), is slow and plodding and speaks to Potash's fondness for doom more than his fondness for thrash and traditional metal. "Premonition," however, is catchy and flows extremely well. Though I don't know how effective the usage of the bass playing the intro riff is, the song is strongly executed. Potash and Hoyer prove their axe-wielding ability as the song passes through the solo section and the bridges which include several great riffs. With fourth track, "True Metal Never Rusts!," the album falters.
It falters not because of "True Metal..." being a bad track but being such a great metal anthem that the rest of the tracks have a hard time living up to it's glory. The actual content of the song, at least lyrically, is clever to a point that it's hard to believe no one has written the song before. This particular track reminds me of current Heavy Metal product from Italy or Germany. Speaking of which, this is the song that when played in a European country, drunken headbangers would absolutely go nuts over. The song has the best riff of the album after the second chorus and also reeks of attitude which the other tracks don't seem to match. Two solos clamor for your attention but if there is one aspect to this track which is lacking compositionally, it's that the two solos are not back to back but separated in the middle, creating the best example of where the album makes a common mistake - the addition of an unnecessary riff or repetition. A third solo culminates at the end of a song which is more than the sum of the rest of album's parts.
"Decisive Victory" is adequate and fun but haphazardly structured. Instead of being streamlined and simplified, additional riffs with little real meaning stand in the way of the album having two top notch songs back to back. Still, those with a less critical ear or beer-filled gut would most likely go retarded over the track. What I absolutely LOVE about the track is it's lyrical content, centering around both Potash's and my own state's historical importance during the Revolutionary War. The song depicts the events of the Battle Of Trenton, when the American Army defeated the British and changed the momentum of the Revolutionary war. "Grim Fate" follows properly but not outstandingly. It has a neat interlude-like instrumental section halfway through with some Maiden-esque harmonies.
The album resolves with Exordium / From The Beyond The Grave and Stalingrad. From Beyond The Grave is pretty much filler material but Exordium is a neat jam with Seymour on drums and Potash showcasing some nifty acoustic guitar playing and lead work. Stalingrad ends the album on a downer for me. While the song opens with a cool bass line which I always enjoy, the song ends the album with mediocrity. It's like Maiden closing out Powerslave with "Losfer Words." The song is fast but doesn't really do anything for me as a grand finale to the album. "Grim Fate" would have been a better closing track or even "Premonition." Ultimately, I guess my biggest gripe would be the order of the tracks themselves. The album opens with a decent intro but then drops into a meandering plodding track afterward. It's not until the fourth track that the album really starts for me and by that time, half the album is gone already.
At just under thirty seven minutes, the album is pretty short and I think would have benefited from another strong track in the vein of "Decisive Victory" or "True Metal..." both of which hearken back to Jag Panzer, early Iced Earth and the glory days of US Power Metal. One of my more arguable and possibly trite condemnations of the album is that the songs that showcased the USPM leanings of the album proved that the transition from Horrifier's more thrashy beginnings had not completely been finished and that the conflict of the two styles presents us with a less focused final product. I would have loved to see what Grim Fate would have been if the transition into a full fledged USPM / Heavy Metal band had been realized. For me, the most defining attribute of Horrifier's Grim Fate is that it came from New Jersey. It proves to the world that while some of the most awful crap has been spewing forth from the Garden State's borders for past decade or so, there is no hint of our true metal rusting away.