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ULTIMATUM - MECHANICS OF PERILOUS TIMES (CD, 2007, Retroactive) bonus tracks

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Initially released in 2001 and re-released in 2007 with bonus tracks (the version I have), Ultimatum's THE MECHANICS OF PERILOUS TIMES is their heaviest album. When I first got it I was a little disappointed because it lacks the catchy songs of their previous CD, 1998's PUPPET OF DESTRUCTION, their all-time best. Yet it sort of makes up for it in heaviness and a great primal drum sound (some whiners complain about the snare, but I love it; it sounds raw and primal).

I'm not sure what makes the songs on this one less catchy but it might be attributed to Scott Water's more aggressive vocal delivery, which comes off kind of one-dimensional over the course of the album. For instance, he'll sometimes sing the stanzas exactly the same as the choruses, which prevents either from standing out. Another problem is that the vocals are too low in the mix.

Still, the whole CD is solid thrash with a handful of highlights. The best of which is "Greed Regime," although it's unnecessarily long, followed by "Burn," which is a cover of the Vengeance Rising song, one of their best. This cover is actually better than the original. "Shroud of Science," "The Purging," "Crash Course" and "Temple of the Spirit" are other good ones. I really like the unexpected and moving mid-section of "The Purging" with the lead solo. Speaking of which, practically every song features a surprise section or two, akin to Overkill's material, which keeps the songs from being one-dimensional. The instrumental "MutaMitlu" shows off the band's progressive side, with elements of Yes, Boston and Kansas, but with Ultimatum's heavy ethic.

The heaviness of this album is augmented by a 'dirty' distortion tone, which I don't mind, but some might. Ironically, Waters criticized Rivera Bomma's excellent 2012 album INFINITE JOURNEY OF SOUL on the grounds of its "muddy" distortion sound, but THE MECHANICS OF PERILOUS TIMES is far more guilty in this regard. At least with INFINITE JOURNEY the vocals are front and center and the instruments are mixed appropriately (although I suppose the bass could be up a little louder). MECHANICS come across amateurish by comparison (in regards to production).

Nevertheless, if you're an Ultimatum fan and favor bands like Exodus, Overkill, Vengeance Rising and Metallica, THE MECHANICS OF PERILOUS TIME is a must. As far as the songs go, it's arguably their least, but it's their heaviest, dense-ist and most primal, which makes up for it, to a point. Despite my criticisms I've really come to appreciate this album and its uniqueness. It jams! It took a while, but I've really warmed up to the songs. And this is why I describe it as unique: Just listen to "Shroud of Science" and "Temple of the Spirit," as well as "The Purging," then check out the lyrics. There's nothing else like it.