Lair of the Minotaur: Evil, Powerful, Pretty Good with Titles

My chief issue with destructive Chicago outfit Lair of the Minotaur has always been memorability. For each of their three albums prior to the latest, Evil Power (their first on self-release label The Grind-House Records), I’ve been psyched to get the disc, put it on, rocked the fuck out, usually woken up in a puddle of someone else’s blood not knowing where I’ve been or what I’ve done, then put the record on the shelf and completely forgotten about it. It’s happened three times now, and more if you count the Cannibal Massacre EP from 2005.

Back then they were on Southern Lord, and the hype around their brutal attack was palpable. Now people know what to expect from a Lair of the Minotaur album and dress accordingly — Kevlar, chain mail, bicycle helmets, etc. What that means is the trio, now consisting of guitarist/vocalist Steven Rathbone, bassist Nate Olp (Demiricous) and drummer Chris Wozniak, have to change things up a little bit.

On Evil Power, they do. Their sound is still based on some of the most pummeling metal the US has ever produced, but several of their tracks show an affinity for hard rock riffing that reminds of Entombed (Rathbone’s vocals also help in this regard; see “Hunt and Devour” and “Attack the Gods”) even as it reaches down your throat to pull out organs both vital and incidental. Whatever it can find, really.

But the question is still whether or not it lasts in the memory. Whether it leaves an impression beyond its heaviness. I’m not going to deny that “Let’s Kill These Motherfuckers” is the catchiest and most memorable song Lair of the Minotaur have ever crafted, and nor am I going to deny that a goodly portion of that memorability comes from the title and its repetition in the chorus. Hey, if that’s what it takes for a Lair of the Minotaur song to stick in my head, so be it. I’m glad the band went so far over the top to get the job done.

There are, however, 10 other tracks on Evil Power, and though Sanford Parker’s production captures excellently all sides of Lair of the Minotaur’s sound — the energy, the anger and the punishment — some of this material is just a wash. Even “Goatstorm,” which bludgeons in the direction of black metal for most of its 1:43 runtime, doesn’t affix itself to the consciousness when it leaves.

“We are Hades,” “Attack the Gods” and “Riders of Skullhammer, We Ride Tonight” make a stronger impression, and there’s no question that this is Lair of the Minotaur’s most striking album yet in overall effect if not sheer immensity, but it’s still up in the air whether or not I’ll come back to Evil Power two months from now for another listen. For “live in the moment” types, however, it’s still really, really fucking heavy, and there are times for which nothing else will get the job done.

Lair of the Minotaur on MySpace

The Grind-House Records

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