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To say that Brood Of Hatred, Tunisia’s prime purveyor of high-class death metal, is probably the best the African continent has to offer isn’t far from the truth. “Skinless Agony”, cliché title aside, was an impressive slab of dystopian-themed dissonant death metal that could compete with the prime works of Immolation, Mithras, and Morbid Angel. As was to be expected that album line-up fell apart and with “Identity Disorder” Brood Of Hatred returns to the one-man band setup from whence it came. Through all the trials and tribulations Mohamed Mêlki has positioned himself as one of the most gifted composers and performers on the African continent. Forgoing the dystopian themes of "Skinless Agony" and coming with arresting new visuals, striking photography and a modernized logo “Identity Disorder” represents a complete make-over for a band now reduced to its founding member. "Identity Disorder" sees Mêlki embarking on a journey inwards.

What exactly led to the dissolution of the “Skinless Agony” line-up is, frankly, not all that important seeing how “Identity Disorder” confidently builds upon what the debut established. Immolation (“Here In After”, “Failures For Gods” and “Close To A World Below”) is still the primary influence in Mêlki’s writing and while they are not as actively hostile in their dissonance as the New York masters during their 1996-2000 prime “Identity Disorder” is pervaded with a near identical sense of detached nihilism and coldness. One of the great defining characteristics of “Skinless Agony” were the post-metal accents and textures in the guitarwork and they are in full swing here. We’re a bit unclear who exactly laid down the drums on this recording, but regardless they match some of Alex Hernandez’ finest work with Immolation. Mêlki is an accomplished lead guitarist and while he does not wield the same tortured, wailing style as Robert Vigna does “Identity Disorder” is awash with plenty of sorrowful solos through out. The biggest difference, if you want to call it that, is a greater prominence of ambient keyboards and serene synthesizers that greatly enhance the introspective feeling the record aims for. Brood Of Hatred is far more clinical in its songwriting too. They never become as militant and abrasive sounding as their New York forebears.

Whereas “Skinless Agony”, cliché title aside, was a dystopian science fiction concept record about the singularity and AI, “Identity Disorder” is an exploration of a far more personal nature. As the title suggests “Identity Disorder” delves into themes of depression, bipolar disorder and various assorted diseases of the mind. As you’d expect given the thematic Mohamed Mêlki gave his project a complete visual make-over. Draped in sterile white and replete with monochrome photography and an abstract logo sigil “Identity Disorder” couldn’t be any more different from the more stereotypical “Skinless Agony” from several years before. As with the debut there’s an airy, spacey feel to most of what Brood Of Hatred plays something that fans of post-“…And Time Begins” Decrepit Birth will surely appreciate. There are traces of Cynic here and there but it’s nothing overly pronounced and on the other end of the spectrum Brood Of Hatred will never be mistaken for a Unique Leader or a New Standard Elite band. At its most stylized Brood Of Hatred sounds what German death metal group Golem could’ve sounded like had they persisted with what “Dreamweaver” established. Just like Carcass on 1991’s “Necroticism - Descanting the Insalubrious” Brood Of Hatred tends to write in a long-winding style rife with swirling dynamics and changing moods. At nearly 50 minutes “Identity Disorder” is packed to the gills with impressive moments.

Ethereal is perhaps the best descriptor for Brood Of Hatred as a band. There’s an almost meditative quality to “Identity Disorder” mostly due to the sustained midpace and greater sense of melody. Just like Resumed, the Italian worshippers of latter-day Death with bassist extraordinaire Giulia Palozzi, the bass guitar is integral to the sound and it features prominently in the production the way it would on a Bolt Thrower record. Judging by the gentle washes of keyboards and synthesizers Mêlki probably listens his fair share of New Age and ambient. At its most thundering Brood Of Hatred sounds somewhat like Belgian death metal combo Emptiness circa “Guilty to Exist” and “Oblivion” with their overly grime aesthetic replaced by something decidedly lighter. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what makes Brood Of Hatred different from the many competitors in its field. For one, Mohamed Mêlki is never afraid to defy convention as the visual aspect of “Identity Disorder” clearly reflects. This is a man not afraid to take bold risks and go against what people expect of him and his project. Mêlki is one of the few visionaries left in a scene rife with mindless followers and pretenders to the throne.

Whether or not Brood Of Hatred’s albums will become classics in their own right only time will tell; what is certain is that Mohamed Mêlki is a pioneer in his own way. He’s certainly not the only to operate a critically acclaimed unit as diverse combos as Cartagena, Myrath, Nawather, and Vielikan have built their own modest international success stories too. Still the fact remains that in a small domestic scene of just under thirty groups (both active and not) Brood Of Hatred more or less is the only of its kind to reap this kind of international recognition. That one of the strongest death metal records of 2018 comes to us from a third world country makes it all the more impressive. While Scandinavia, Latin America and even Asia (to a lesser degree) all have carved out their own regional interpretations of what is largely to be considered an American – and European art form North Africa is still catching up to the rest of the world. Brood Of Hatred isn’t quite on the level of South African combo Skinflint in terms of brand recognition yet but they are, by and large, their country's most popular international export. If anything else “Identity Disorder” should establish Brood Of Hatred as the international player it is.

Plot: good girls go to heaven, Valeria goes everywhere…

Silvio Amadio was a promising director that helmed two interesting giallos with Amuck (1972) and Death Smiles On A Murderer (1973) that saw him working with some of Italy's finest leading ladies Rosalba Neri, Barbara Bouchet and Ewa Aulin. Compared to them Gloria Guida was but a starlet, willing and able to shed fabric if required, of questionable acting talent. Obviously Amadio’s best days were truly well behind him and not even Guida’s ascent in the commedia sexy all’Italiana could pull him from the morass of mediocrity. Amadio would work with Guida on another three occassions with So Young, So Lovely, So Vicious... (1975), That Malicious Age (1975), and Il Medico... La Studentessa (1976) but suffice to say no amount of Guida in the buff can mask how routinous and daft these are. The Minor was the last hurrah of a director well above this kind of daft melodramatic swill. There’s only so many ways for Gloria Guida to undress until that grows stale too.

The Minor was only glorious Gloria's second feature and the follow-up to the rather innocuous Monika (1974). Guida was a year removed from Blue Jeans (1975), the feature that would launch her legendary derrière to Eurocult superstardom, and her role as everybody's favorite promiscuous Catholic schoolgirl or la liceale in Michele Massimo Tarantini’s La Liceale (1975). That Gloria couldn't really act was manifest in her debut outing but at least she's given something to work with here. In her scenes with veteran actor Corrado Pani he does most of the heavy lifting for her. Guida's non-acting is charming at first but tends to grow tedious the farther one progresses into her filmography. While it stands to reason that la Guida did more than just taking her clothes off in Blue Jeans (1975), and That Malicious Age (1975), it wouldn't be until To Be Twenty (1978) a few years later that she proved that she could actually act. It's true that Gloria Guida was handed terrible scripts banking heavily on her willingness to shed clothes, but even with a good screenplay she wasn't exactly an Edwige Fenech, Barbara Bouchet, or Femi Benussi. Let alone that she was able to match ubiquitous bedroom farce queen Laura Antonelli. 

To its credit at least The Minor attempts to do things a little differently in its opening 15 minutes. Just like Mario Imperoli’s Monika (1974) and Blue Jeans (1975), The Minor opens with a pair of legs in the shortest blue skirt imaginable. The skirt and the legs in them, of course, belong to everybody’s favorite raunchy comedy darling Gloria Guida. From there it takes a page from the Christina Lindberg romp Exponerad (1971) as she’s chased, surrounded and then raped by a gang of bikers. We learn that Guida is Valeria Sanna and she’s summoned to the doctor’s office for a medical check-up. Right when the doctor is about to get naughty with her, her class mates burst in, wearing colorful corsets, and Valeria punishes the medic with castration. By this time sister Angela (Nicoletta Amadio) has found the schoolgirls in the woods and Valeria attempts to corrupt the good sister with some sapphic seduction. In her next flight of fancy Valeria finds herself topless and crucified by evil men and women of the cloth until a band of schoolgirls and nuns come to her rescue. She’s brought before the court of the headmaster (Giulio Donnini) and is instructed to return home for the summer and spent time with her dysfunctional family.

Things take a turn towards well-charted and rather daft commedia sexy all’Italiana and melodramatic territory when Valeria returns home. Her absentee father (Marco Guglielmi) has an office affair with his secretary. Her young and attractive mother (Rosemary Dexter) has an affair with wealthy entrepreneur Carlo Savi (Giacomo Rossi Stuart, as Giacomo Rossi-Stuart) while their in-house maid Carlotta (Gabriella Lepori) is in a tryst with Valeria’s constantly horny brother Lorenzo (Luciano Roffi). Valeria herself is the object of everybody’s attention as she can’t sunbathe topless without being spied on from nearby boats and no less than twice do a gang of schoolboys break-and-enter into her house to watch her undress. One day while wandering the beach she makes her acquaintance with Spartaco (Corrado Pani), a middle-aged sculptor living in a shack. An unlikely bond develops between the two and soon Valeria finds herself torn between interest in boys of her own age and her growing affection towards the cultured and worldly social pariah Spartaco. In a scene towards the end Giacomo Rossi-Stuart’s Carlo has Valeria dressing up as a internment camp prisoner while he poses as a Nazi officer and tries to lure Valeria in bed. At that point her mother enters the room and she’s none too pleased with her lover. It is then that Valeria realizes that she’s no longer interested in the adolescent boys that cause her so much grief, but in old Spartaco instead.

There are far and few Gloria Guida commedia sexy all’Italiana that are truly mandatory. The Minor is too routine and by-the-numbers to warrant recommendation outside of the opening 15 minutes that have Gloria partaking in various of daydreams. The Minor offers ample opportunity for Guida to shine as she’s put in (and out of) various alluring garments; be it the schoolgirl outfit with a skimpiest blue skirt and diaphanous knee-high socks, miniscule see-through lingerie and the blue bikini that features in most of the beach scenes. Seeing Guida is always a delight but no amount of bare skin can mask just how hideously banal The Minor truly is. Guida never shied away from nudity and The Minor has enough of Gloria in the buff to satisfy anyone’s cravings, the plot however is as trite as many of these comedies were wont to be. Gloria Guida might not have been the most gifted of actresses, but her shapely derrière and her willingness to shed clothes allowed her a steady career in bawdy commedia sexy all’Italiana. Obviously not all of her comedies and melodramas were created equal, but at the very least most were enjoyable in the basest sense of the word.

Granted, Gloria Guida was no Barbara Bouchet, Femi Benussi or even Evelyn Kraft. If The Minor proves anything it is that even Guida was too good to waste on mediocre swill like this. The creativity that it manifests and the goodwill that it generates in the first 15 minutes is too easily squandered as The Minor is yet another coming-of-age melodrama that banks entirely on miss Guida’s willingness to generously disrobe in front of the camera. The screenplay by Piero Regnoli has nothing significant to add to the genre – and not even the on-screen romance between Guida and Corrado Pani was all that novel by this point. Guida had been romancing men old enough to be her father before and after in Mario Imperoli’s Monika (1974) and Blue Jeans (1975). That The Minor plays out almost exactly like the earlier Scandinavian Exponerad (1971) proves just how moot the entire exercise was, even if it’s livelier than its Swedish predecessor. The opening 15 minutes alone manifest more creativity than the remainder of the feature can ever be bothered to muster. The Minor is far from director Silvio Amadio’s best, but it more than signifies that his best days were very well behind him now. While Guida’s ass was at least as famous as Benussi’s, Femi possessed a kind of vibrant versatility that Gloria never quite got a hold of.

Whether one can stomach the average Gloria Guida commedia sexy all’Italiana is entirely dependent on one's tolerance for Benny Hill slapstick shenanigans from buffoons as Lino Banfi and Alvaro Vitali as well as the usual amount of tragedy that was obligatory in these features. Nobody in the right mind watches these things for the story and the reason why everybody is here is to see Gloria Guida in the buff. The Minor is slightly more creative than the usual fare that Guida found herself in, but it is never able to consolidate that initial and early promise. Each and every excuse is still good enough to have glorious Gloria undress but it hardly guarantees an engaging, let alone compelling experience. Thankfully Gloria would be soon become a superstar with her role as the luscious la liceale in Michele Massimo Tarantini’s La Liceale (1975) (released in North America as The Teasers) and the controversial satire To Be Twenty (1978) with Lilli Carati. The Minor isn’t necessarily terrible – but it’s not good enough to warrant recommendation either. It’s a commedia sexy all’Italiana on auto-pilot, and it shows.