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Lex Metalis
Artist: Ultimatum
Label: Retroactive Records
Time: 13 tracks/50:32 minutes

Cover albums- like live albums and b-side albums- are a hit and miss affair. Their quality boils down to three things: who a band covers, which songs they choose to cover, and how they play those songs. The truth is most cover albums are banal because bands will choose to cover the same predictable hits by the same old bands, offering little of their own attitude and style in the proceedings.

Ultimatum have proven in the past that they can overcome these problems. In the past they have covered bands as disparate as Vengeance Rising and Iron Maiden, and have made excellent song choices and made the songs sound like their own. Of course, that is while including one cover song on an album of otherwise all original material. Can Ultimatum keep it up on a whole CD of cover tunes? With Lex Metalis the answer is a resounding "yes!"

With each band member picking a couple favorite songs from both Christian and non-Christian metal acts, and also opening up voting to their fans, Ultimatum narrowed the list of tunes to thirteen from over sixty. Many metal genres are mixed together- from thrash (Metallica's "Creeping Death"), glam (Twisted Sister's "Sin After Sin") to power metal (Metal Church's "Ton of Bricks"). However Ultimatum filters each track through their hardcore/thrash sensibilities, making each their own. Vengeance Rising's "Can't Get Out" is turned into a punky stomper, while Mortification's "Gut Wrench" is turned from hardcore to technical thrash. Always present are Scott Waters' unique vocals adding a new spin to the songs, and Robert Gutierrez throws down some choice leads. The whole band is on fire, paying tribute to their heroes.

Addressing the three aforementioned issues- Ultimatum doesn't fall into ay of the traps. They cover popular bands like Megadeth and obscure bands like The Moshketeers. They choose unique tracks, and don't rely on popular tunes, but there are a few of those as well. Ultimatum reinterprets each track to fit their style but also doesn't modify anything to the point that it is unrecognizable to fans of the original. One thing that impressed me is how much they paid attention to the lyrics of the songs they chose. Even though most of the songs are not Christian, the lyrics tend to either focus on metal as a genre ("Denim & Leather") or are compatible with the band's faith, or can be interpreted from a Christian viewpoint. For example, "Creeping Death" is entirely biblical history, and Scott adds the words "Jesus saves!" to the chorus of "Sin After Sin" changing its tone from focusing on darkness to being evangelical.

There is not much to complain about with this disc, it has great songs, great playing, great production, and a great booklet featuring the band members reminiscing about the songs and bands they have loved for years. For many bands a cover record is a stop gap effort, but with Ultimatum it is a labor of love. One minor quibble is that I wish they had chosen a different track instead of Iron Maiden's "Wrathchild" which was already featured on 2007's "Into the Pit." This is a great album for any metalhead- the band has no agenda except having fun here. It begs to be cranked up loud for your headbanging pleasure. Or, to quote their Quiet Riot cover: "Bang your head! Metal Health will drive you mad!"

Noah Salo
http://shineisdead.wordpress.com

 
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