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20th Anniversary of Confessor’s Condemned

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Twenty years ago this month, Confessor took too-obvious influences, Trouble’s Psalm 9, Metallica’s …And Justice for All, and spun them into something obscure- Condemned.

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Confessor – “Condemned”

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Too obscure, even, for some headbangers, who idolize hard-to-digest music. Case in point: the deciblog opened fire on Condemned as a ‘Disposable Hero‘. This came as a double shock because:

A) I wasn’t aware that many other people knew of this record’s existence- I found it by accident- and

B) although it’s definitely a jumbled listen, I’ve never heard anything quite like Condemned. It’s a rare example of a terminally unique record in an ocean of cookie-cutters; that alone makes it worth listening to.

Ask five people how to describe Condemned and you’ll get five completely different answers: I’ve heard “jazz-groove” and “calculator doom”. My personal favorite: “a drummer’s wet dream”. Observe the following drum clinic with Confessor’s Steve Shelton for a crash course in technical drum composition:

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Steve Shelton – Condemned deconstruction

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Or, what say we fuck genre tags and describe it purely in terms of other bands? How about Helmet’s bastard love child with Fate’s Warning; the Pantera to Voivod’s Metallica; or the whiny Meshuggah record that never was.

Personally, I like to think of it as the missing link between classic metal and ‘djent’.

Technical-but-swinging rhythms? Check. Big chunky guitars playing fat chords? Check. Scorching falsetto vocals? Check. Lyrics about internal strife? Check. If Confessor ever record a follow up to 2005’s Unraveled (not nearly as good as Condemned), they could tap Devin Townsend to produce it and tour with Periphery. Whether or not this happens, its high time Confessor get more acknowledgement from “the youngsters”.

Confessor still sound distinct from the mini renaissance of technical-extreme heavy metal modern bands so idolize- it’s easy to compare Atheist’s Unquestionable Presence and Cynic’s Focus, but it’s hard to compare either with Condemned. It’s interesting that Confessor was the first of these bands to re-form and record on Season of Mist, yet reaped fewer benefits. In music, the early bird does not always catch the new fan base worm.

As it stands, Condemned is an archaeopteryx- a point of intersecting lines in history-and one worthy of childlike wonder. Or just gawking, your pick.

— Joseph Schafer

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