The story of Texan Speed/Thrash Metal quartet Rigor Mortis is a pretty fascinating one indeed. Having first formed back in 1983 by schoolboy friends Harden Harrison (drums) & Casey Orr (bass), they were the first ever underground band from the area to sign a record contract with a major label like Capitol Records with whom they released their now legendary same-titled debut.
Following two more high quality releases, and with interest from the music industry inexplicably diminishing, the band split up in 1991, only to be reformed nine years ago. Various attempts to lure record labels back to their rejuvenated cause led to nothing so the quartet decided to rely solely on their fans for support by crowd funding the recording.
It was while the last finishing touches of “Slaves To The Grave” were being applied that guitarist Mike Scaccia suffered a heart attack which, sadly, ended his life, leading his colleagues to complete this album as a form of tribute to him.
I am pretty sure that you all now of at least one example of an old-school band which decided to reform with the best of intentions, only to eventually deliver a collection of songs incapable of competing with material of their halcyon years.
Well, “Slaves To The Grave” is luckily not such an album! What the members of Rigor Mortis have achieved, to maximum effect, is to create an album that features the same amounts of passion, feel and energy that Speed/Thrash Metal bands had back in the mid-80s but provide it with a strong/organic sound that belongs firmly in the 21st century. I
f you are a fan of early incarnations of bands like Exciter and Metallica and you have a soft spot for fast shredding riffs in the style of Dave Carlo (see Canadian legends Razor) then this album is most definitely for you!
I honestly think that my heart skipped a beat when I first heard the outrageously fast opening riff of “Poltergeist” as the intensity of this six minute up-tempo Thrasher is fairly overwhelming indeed.
Bruce Corbitt’s deep vocals are at their commanding best while Casey Orr’s warm bass tone perfectly complements Harden Harrison’s blistering drum beats. “Rain Of Ruin” is a simply-crafted mid tempo head banging song in the vein of early Slayer while the significantly faster “Flesh For Flies” raises again temperature levels to dangerous heights.
Early Iron Maiden records have provided inspirations for many 80s US bands with the melodic “The Infected” illustrating this perfectly, while both riff-driven “Blood Bath” & “Ancient Horror” are the perfect soundtracks for decent head banging.
More examples of old-school Thrash brilliance can be found in “Fragrance Of Corpse” and “Curse Of The Draugr”, while the best moment on the album comes in the shape of “Sacramentum Gladiatorum” / Ludus Magnus” – a brilliantly crafted narrative style piece which provides an insight into the lives of Roman Gladiators in a unique and truly epic way – something that bands like Manowar should take note of.
With the sad passing of Mike Scaccia the future of Rigor Mortis seems quite uncertain. I gather that a lot will depend on what people’s reaction will be towards “Slaves To The Grave” and whether the remaining members of the band will decide to join forces with a person capable of filling Mike’s shoes.
If “Slaves To The Grave” turns out to be the last ever release by Rigor Mortis then this is the most perfect way to conclude the life of one of the most impressive and criminally underrated bands of the scene. If, however, we are to have another Rigor Mortis album in the future, the remaining members of the band will face a pretty enormous task in trying to top this one.
Let’s wait see what the future holds for these fine Texans.