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Although all of Ultimatum's four studio disks are worthwhile I feel 1998's PUPPET OF DESTRUCTION and 1995's SYMPHONIC EXTREMITIES 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 PUPPET OF DESTRUCTION 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 totally 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.

PUPPET OF DESTRUCTION is highlighted by some of the best songs in the history of metal -- "Never," "Puppet of Destruction" and "World of Sin," whereas "Mortal Stomp," "Scorn," "Gutterbox" and "Crosshope" aren't that far behind. And the remaining three could hardly be categorized as filler. This is quality cd from beginning to end, pure and simple, which is why I rate it so highly.

The lyrical themes are another highlight. 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 numerous interesting topics usually with a spiritual edge from a biblical standpoint. "Never" is about maintaining one's integrity as musical styles come in and out of popularity. The chorus is particularly innovative (lyrically and musically). "Puppet of Destruction" is about metal bands that have nothing better to sing about than death, destruction, satan and horror/gore. What happens to the minds that continually take in such garbage? (Garbage in, garbage out). Again, the chorus is outstanding. And "Gutterbox" is about tv addiction or couch potato-ism. This is just a taste.

The production is great as far as clarity of instruments and mix goes, but it lacks bottom-end heaviness. Not that it's some wimpy album or anything -- far from it -- just that the guitars lack that ultra-heavy sound. This is something they make up for with their next offering THE MECHANICS OF PERILOUS TIMES.

Needless to say, highly recommended if it sounds like your cup of java!

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