WHITE THRONE review by Keven Crothers
The latest offering from Ultimatum is a collection of heavy duty compositions entitled ‘Lex Metalis’ latin for “Metal is the Law.” These metal merchants from New Mexico have given us an insight into their musical past as this disc is a ‘covers’ album. 13 songs that have inspired and motivated them to play the type of music that they do. In the extensive liner notes vocalist Scott Waters explained how difficult it was to condense the huge list of possible selections for this recording. (If you want to know how difficult you’ll have to buy the CD!). One thing I will point out and Scott points out as well, they didn’t want to cover the typical songs most bands will cover. I applaud them for this choice.
Opening with the high octane thrash of Metal Church’s ‘Ton of Bricks’ and closing with Overkill’s ‘Powersurge’ this album is simply fabulous. A huge smorgasbord of metal influences from several different era’s of metal are represented. The New Wave of British Heavy Metal comes in with songs from Motorhead ‘Iron Fist’, Iron Maiden ‘Wrathchild’, Saxon ‘Denim and Leather’. I’d heard the Maiden cover on their previous disc ‘Into the Pit’ and thought it was great so when I heard the cover of ‘Denim and Leather’ I was doing cartwheels in my front yard. Simply a ripping version of that song…!‘Iron Fist’ by the ‘Head is another recognizable but not often covered song. This high energy early punk/thrash style tune that Robert Gutierrez’s guitar tone just spearheads the way. “The devils grip THE IRON FIST”!
Judas Priest is given their due with a powerful tune from their British Steel album, ‘Steeler’ is a highly underated and neglected song from their catalog, Waters vocals power the assault with the rythym section of Rob Whitlock on bass and Alan Tuma on drums barraling along for support. Songs by Megadeth “Moto Pyscho”, Twisted Sister “Sin After Sin” are reproduced in excellent fashion.
Hearing versions of several Christian Metal classics always peak my interest as often times I bought the originals when they first came out. In this case Vengeance Rising’s ‘Can’t Get Out’ really shreds and as does Robert on lead guitar! The lyrics to this song are hilarious and when Scott belts it out his annunciation is really rather good, as opposed to Roger Martinez whom if you didn’t have the lyric sheet you were completely lost. (I loved and still do the first two Vengeance albums). Songs by The Moshketeers ‘Locked In Chains’ (whom I’d not heard before) and Mortification ‘Gut Wrench’ are done with passion and intensity.
For me the highlights on this disc are Metallica’s ‘Creeping Death’ a vastly underated and often forgotten song in their catalog. I loved that song when Ride The Lighting came out in 1984, even bought the 12” picture disc with the songs from Diamond Head and Blitzkrieg on the backside. One of the best thrash songs ever and Ultimatum NAILS IT!!!!! Unmistakable energy and power, a pure piece of metal excellence. The second highlight comes from one of heavy metal’s true anthems Quiet Riot’s ‘Metal Health’. That was the first song by Quiet Riot I’d ever heard back in ‘83 and I had to buy that album immediately. That was way before their cover of Slade’s ‘Cum On Feel The Noize’ hit. To me ‘Metal Health’ is right there with ‘Balls to Wall’ as an anthem that every headbanger knows even if they don’t own the albums, they know those songs…. Amazing.
An album like this should accomplish several things, First it should make you want to listen to it again as the band hopefully have put their own stamp on the song. Second if you’re already familiar with some of the songs it should knock you up the backside and you think “That Was a GREAT song!” and you go and pull out the original version. Thirdly if you’re not familiar with a certain artist/song hopefully the version does justice and you think to yourself “How did I miss that?!?!”
The production is solid and clean. A very nice gem case for packaging with a cool 8 page booklet.
Buy this and turn it up because all men play on ten. Cheers!
TEETH OF THE DIVINE REVIEW
Since it's formation in 1992, New Mexico's Ultimatum has been steadfast in it's pursuit of the Metal Dream. This is one of those bands that lives, eats and breathes Heavy Metal on stage and off. For it's fifth full length studio release, the band has chosen to pay homage to some of it's heroes and ours...yes, boys and girls, I give you a covers album - collective groan from the audience -. I know, I know. These types of albums have been called everything from lazy to a quick cash in...sometimes both. But Ultimatum #1 - barely make any money anyway and #2 - are anything but a lazy band so here we go.
Ultimatum is known primarily as a Thrash Metal band. Yet, over time the band has allowed it's classic Heavy Metal roots to come through in it's music much like Deceased has done. Thus, we find a varying combination (for Metal) of covers from bands like Overkill, Judas Priest, Vengeance Rising, Quiet Riot, Metal Church, etc. with no single style taking the lead. The band does manage to put its own stamp on the songs without rendering them unrecognizable. A few that fit like a glove would be "Ton Of Bricks" (Metal Church), "Can't Get Out" (Vengeance Rising) and "Powersurge" (Overkill) as they are close to Ultimatum's on brand of Thrash tinged Heavy Metal and also since vocalist Scott Waters is kind of like a blend of all three of these singers, David Wayne, Roger Martinez and Blitz Ellsworth, respectively. The higher range, gritty, sometimes slurred delivery also shows signs of influence from the likes of Cronos and King Fowley. A few that surprised me were "Bang Your Head (Metal Health)" (Quiet Riot), "Denim And Leather" (Saxon) and "Sin After Sin" (Twisted Sister). I say surprised because once you hear the rough and ragged vocals come in over very familiar riffage, it jolts the attention (if you've heard Deceased's 'Zombie Hymns' release, you know what I'm talking about). Like I said, the band put it's stamp on these songs. The music is all kept pretty close to all the original arrangements, except maybe for a little added double kick or altered drum pattern or solo embellishment here and there, but I think the idea was to play the songs as if Ultimatum wrote them. A few others that come off quite well would include "Wrathchild" (Iron Maiden), "Iron Fist" (Motorhead) and "Creeping Death" (Metallica). One I think did not come together well was "Steeler" (Judas Priest). I can't put my finger on it, but it's just not sitting well with me. Perhaps the music/vocal combo is just too glaring on this one.
The liners come with detailed explanations as to why these particular songs were chosen and that's always fun to read. As with most covers albums, they are for diehard fans of the band recording them as the point is to look back, not look forward for new fans. But, if you're curious as to what Ultimatum actually sounds like, despite them having not written a single note on this album, Lex Metalis does manage to give you a good idea. If you played the band's 2007 album Into The Pit next to this one, you'll see what I mean...despite the well-known songs, it sounds like Ultimatum. Check it out.
- Shawn Pelata
Teeth of the Divine