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Defiance: Beyond Recognition (remaster)

Originally released in 1992, Beyond Recognition was the third and final album by underground thrash metal band Defiance before they disbanded in 1994. Likely considered by many fans as the pinnacle of their recorded output, this album features technical, somewhat progressive tinged thrash metal, while never straying away from the main formula of what brought them to the dance. You can make a case that Beyond Recognition weaves non-traditional song structures, changing time signatures, and abrupt dynamic shifts to good effect, creating a fusion of elements that show off Defiance's versatility in the genre, but for whatever reason, they never reached the pinnacle of success or notoriety that other bands such as Slayer, Anthrax, or Testament achieved around the same time. After a subsequent hiatus of more than ten years the band reformed in 2005, and with that return finds the re-release of Beyond Recognition, which has been given the "gold standard" treatment from the folks at Roadrunner Records and Metal Mind Productions. So how does the album hold up over time? Let's take a listen…

The album immediately begins with a flurry of guitar notes provided by the extremely talented duo of Jim Adams and the late Doug Harrington. Both men are master shredders, and while their names will never be widely known, they certainly show they can hold their own against the likes of James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett (Metallica) or Scott Ian and Dan Spitz (Anthrax). "The Killing Floor" is a heavy, thumping tune that frequently changes tempo but never relents in its ferocity as the words "mesmerized, souls left behind, in the killing fields that leave you blind" are bellowed during the chorus. "Step Back," a message of self empowerment, takes it one step further musically, featuring powerful and unrelenting drumming from Matt Vander Ende and odd time signature changes. "Perfect Nothing" starts softly and features very non-traditional sounding guitar chords that are closer to jazz fusion than thrash. Soon enough the song gains steam and plows straight ahead with reckless abandon, featuring tremendous double bass kicks. An important note is that Mike Kaufmann's bass guitar is alarmingly low in the mix, perhaps bringing forth sonic comparisons to …And Justice For All by Metallica. While the production overall sounds quite nice, there certainly is a distinct lack of low end in the music on this album. "Dead Silence" and "Inside Looking Out" feature two of the more "catchier choruses" on the album, if that's a possible term to use in a genre like this, for thrash is not built upon an emphasis on melodic vocal catchiness, but rather aggression and matter-of-fact bluntness. Subtlety be damned! While a lack of "strong hooks" might be a sticking point for some, others might find their biggest gripe to be with the lead vocal of Steev Esquivel. He doesn't exactly have a melodic delivery and there's an abrasiveness present (which again, is a natural fit for the style of music and subject matter), but all things considered, his vocal (to my ears) almost seems to partially hinder the songs, even though the power he projects in his voice never sounds fake or forced. "Inside Looking Out" even features some harmonies that sound right at home on an Alice In Chains record. It really just depends on how you like your vocals served with your metal.

On the flipside, the biggest strength of Beyond Recognition is the brute force with which the songs are delivered and the shred-worthy guitar riffing which never sounds stagnant or contrived. This album is void of any musical pretensions for mass acceptance or concerns for a hit single. With increased production values compared to earlier efforts, there's a natural progression present, and any thrash metal fan can't help but acknowledge that this is where the band reached their peak, both in creativity and musicianship. If you're itching to discover a lost gem by a band that never really made it out of the shadows of the Bay Area thrash scene, then pick up this record. It's honest, punishing thrash metal that isn't afraid to take a few risks in the process.

Track Listing
1. The Killing Floor
2. Step Back
3. Perfect Nothing
4. No Compromise
5. Dead Silence
6. Inside Looking Out
7. The Chosen
8. Power Trip
9. Promised Afterlife

Added: March 6th 2009
Reviewer: Keith Schwier
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 1963
Language: english

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