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CD Review: !T.O.O.H.! - "Order and Punishment"

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!T.O.O.H.! - Order And Punishment
Earache (2005)

Rating: D+

Since their 1999 debut, the Czech Republic's !T.O.O.H.! have successfully performed a balancing act between surrealist art and carnival music, but with Order and Punishment, !T.O.O.H.!'s latest (and final) release, the band seems to have finally lost its footing, falling off the tight rope and crashing into the ground with no safety net to spare them from fatal injury.

The first major misstep comes in the new production style, which ditches the gritty, claustrophobic feel of the first two albums in favor of a cleaner, more "modern" approach, complete with weightless triggered bass and an annoying woodpecker snare. But beyond the superficial details, what really throws this album off track is the shift towards a compositional style that includes more hooks, more bounce and more big-top melodies, which sees the band leaving behind the dissonant counterpoint of the first two albums in favor of grindcore-tinted Iron Maiden worship.

Like a court jester's outfit, this album attempts to patch together a wild assortment of shapes and colors into a single, coherent outfit but ultimately ends up looking like the type of fool whom no one of high artistic standing would bother taking seriously.

Notes: No surprise that this album (as well as failures from bands like The Chasm and Decapitated) ultimately lead to the destruction of Earache's Wicked World and Elitist subsidiaries.

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