Time was, you couldn’t swing your battle-ax without hitting a metal band that sang exclusively about mythology and ancient warfare. Certainly, there’s a rustic appeal to a lyric like “As they drag the fallen/ Vulture over those who’ve died/ Dragging souls to Hades/ Drinking blood till satisfied,” from the title track off Lair of the Minotaur’s third disc, War Metal Battle Master. Yet as much as the album’s thrash attack and subject matter spills the same blood as Venom and Celtic Frost (Steven Rathbone’s forceful grunt is a dead ringer for Tom G. Warrior’s), Lair of the Minotaur offer uncommonly great, blood-soaked riffage and dead-serious attitude as sacrifices to their influences.
Rathbone’s infamous guitar tone sounds disgustingly crusty on War Metal Battle Master’s speedier tracks, and heavier than ever on “Doomtrooper,” a nine-minute power play of crawling tempos and righteous pick-slides. Uber-engineer Sanford Parker cranks up the rhythm section’s kill factor, not that it needed much help — no disrespect to Lair of the Minotaur’s former skin-flayer Larry Herweg (Pelican), but new drummer Chris Wozniak has the lead-footed chops that this kind of battle metal requires.
If War Metal Battle Master doesn’t awaken your bloodlust, ask yourself one question: Will your precious Vampire Weekend protect you when the armies of Hades are unleashed?