From Strength to Strength Review
There are many tribute acts that play covers of their favorite bands, and in metal there are also hundreds of examples of tribute bands that compose original songs in the style of their favorites. It is easy to dismiss many of these bands as not very valuable knock offs—I often have—but there is a key difference that can make or break this kind of musical hero worship.
I like Count Raven. They play doom and could easily be dismissed as a Black Sabbath knock off—their singer sounds like he is doing an Ozzy impersonation—but their riffs have a modern (or at least nineties) sound and some harmonies that wouldn’t be out of place in Norwegian black metal. In the end, they have an identity of their own because their music is their own. But a band like County Medical Examiners crosses the line for me. They not only replicate the Carcass sound, but take actual licks, melodies and vocal phrases from Carcass. Some will call CME’s music an homage, but I’d use a different word.
This preamble brings me to the Malaysian death metal outfit, Humiliation, whose every move and sonic choice comes from the book of England’s glorious Bolt Thrower. There is perhaps no death metal band I listen to more often than Bolt Thrower, so I am open to a band playing in this style if they don’t just steal music and call it an homage. For the most part, Humiliation plays in the Bolt Thrower style, but writes enjoyable original music.
Compared to some others who follow behind the mighty rolling tank from England, Humiliation fares quite well. Slugathor, while perhaps a bit more original than Humiliation, has a mediocre sense of melody and is spotty. War Master delivers about half the time, though rarely delivers good riffs or vocal ideas when they do fast stuff (which is strange, since they were once half of the blazing grind outfit Insect Warfare). Humiliation ignores the grind era of Bolt Thrower (I like grind, but think Bolt Thrower got much, much better once they slowed down), and focuses on steady, mid-paced rolling tank power.
Surprisingly, Humiliation is actually a slightly SIMPLER take on Bolt Thrower, with even more steady chugging than their progenitors and even less activity on the fret board. Compared to Bolt Thrower, Humiliation’s vocals are more desperate, sparser and less stately, and there are a couple of attempts at slightly catchier choruses (“Blind Bomb” and “Fast Kill”), which are pretty good.
My criticisms begin with the rather boring tune “Proposition of Violence” that is simple even by the standards of this band and longer than most cuts. It’s just dull. “Fastkill” follows this tune and seems like a retread of “Blind Bomb,” so we get about 10 minutes of standstill after the solid first half of the album. “Manifesto of Lie” returns us to the statelier side of things and the album finishes out decently, but considering the simplicity and similarity of these tunes, it’s better to err on the side of brevity. And certainly “Artillery Open Fire” and “Manifesto of Lie” would have been far better final songs than the less distinct “Bukit Kepong.”
Bottom line: This thing should have been a 35 minute tank ride instead of 49 minutes. I bought another album by them already, and I chose an EP.
As with my favorite Bolt Thrower albums (For Those Once Loyal & Mercenary & Honour - Valour - Pride), Humiliation’s From Strength to Strength is a smooth album of relentless rolling power, steady chugging and martial confidence. I would like to see more (or at least some) of Humiliation’s own personality on their next album, but this one succeeds in its v