Ultimatum - Symphonic Extremities (CD)

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Although all of Ultimatum's four studio disks are worthwhile I feel 1995's SYMPHONIC EXTREMITIES and 1998's PUPPET OF DESTRUCTION have the best assortment of songs. (2002's THE MECHANICS of PERILOUS TIMES is their heaviest offering with a great primal drum sound, while 2007's INTO THE PIT features stellar songs like "Blood Covenant" and "Heart of Metal").

Ultimatum play a style that's rooted in traditional metal but with a thrashy, modern edge. It's a timeless style pure and simple. Although it's the songs themselves that standout on SYMPHONIC EXTREMITIES, the musicianship and vocals are certainly worth noting. The rhythm guitars are reminiscent of early Metallica and Exodus whereas the lead guitars are unschooled with a melodic haunting vibe (think Mercyful Fate). The drums & bass are professional and solid.

As for the vocals, people will likely either love or hate Scott Waters. On this recording he sounds like a mixture of Steve Souza, Dave Mustaine and Udo yet with his own unique flair. He sorta sounds like a snake if it became human and fronted a metal band (huh?). One great thing about Scott's vocals is that he is able to acclimate to the needs of the song and make it "work," if you know what I mean. Hence, although he's technically not a great singer like Dio, he utilizes his vocal talents in such a way that keeps the songs from being one-dimensional and boring. Dio, by contrast, has the unfortunate tendency to sound the same song to song.

SONG HIGHLIGHTS: SYMPHONIC EXTREMITIES is without a doubt Ultimatum's most experimental, creative disk. Although one riff in "Symphonic Extremities" (the song) is reminiscent of Metallica's "Ride the Lightning," on a whole it stands on its own. "The Killing Fields" is an incredible piece addressing abortion; talk about poignant! "E.N.D." is one of the most catchy, innovative metal pieces you'll likely ever hear; it overtly touches on suicidal feelings and salvation. "Black Light" addresses the deception of cults and is highlighted by an original, melodic and moving chorus. "Darkest Void" is another strong track. "Ode to Noise" is an avant-garde instrumental. "The Grip" is an emotionally stirring number about struggling with the evil within oneself (all of us can relate, huh?); it's highlighted by a potent chorus. "Magaton" is another stand out track with bass-driven stanzas and Udo-like vocals. "World of Sin" was originally a bonus track and a more recent version is featured on PUPPET OF DESTRUCTION. Regardless, "World of Sin" is a superb metal masterpiece. The two tracks I failed to mention -- "Fatal Delay" and "Blink" -- are okay but nothing noteworthy (a better-produced version of "Blink" is featured on INTO THE PIT).

The cd also features 3 bonus tracks: "Wickedness & Perdition" is an interesting 1993 demo featuring a more conventional vocal style. There's also a 1993 demo version of "Fatal Delay" and a great live rendition of "Greed Regime" from THE MECHANICS OF PERILOUS TIMES (the cd wrongly lists "Blink"). "Greed Regime" kicks total axx!

As you've probably noticed, the lyrical themes are different from the metal norm. You don't have to worry about well-worn material here like dungeons, dragons, horror-gore and silly sci-fi sheet (not that there's anything wrong with that). The lyrics address various interesting topics usually with a spiritual edge from a biblical standpoint.

Since SYMPHONIC EXTREMITIES is actually a compilation of two 5-song demos it has a very raw sound but, other than the guitars going slightly out of sync near the beginning of "E.N.D.", it sounds just fine. All the instruments & vocals are clear and mixed properly -- what more do ya want? I'd much rather hear my metal produced like this than overproduced like on Metallica's BLACK ALBUM.