2019 Roundup: Thrash Metal, Part 2
It’s becoming something of a running joke to say “I haven’t kept up with my journalistic duties as of late, and to be frank, I don’t intend to entirely rectify this matter shortly,” and then proceed to dump six handfuls of new records on you; the fact is, I neglected them from August onward, failing to meet every deadline (that I admittedly set for myself) that would previously have been laughably easy to hit. So with these roundup posts I haven’t kept myself up to my already flimsy standards as per writing, but I’m merely seeking to get something out to make up for the lack of effort. Today, it’s the turn of Mortal Scepter, Legion of the Damned, Urn, Evil Angel, Warsenal, Hellish and Nocturnal Breed.
Fairly raw and savage death/thrash from France that’s got the sound of early Teutonic and US thrash bands down. The flat mix, which works in the album’s favour, makes the affair sound a whole lot sloppier than it is—these Frenchmen know what they’re doing and are well within their range of instrumental skill. And that’s something that I miss, the feeling of danger that often seems synonymous with this particular branch of thrash metal, the feeling that the band is unable to let go, to slow down, because they’re no longer in control and have to hope for the best. No one sounds like they’re pushing their own limits on this record, and obviously in 2019 this record isn’t pushing limits musically either, but with riffs this good, energy this clear and love for their craft this obvious, I’d say these are minor quibbles.
Legion of The Damned has never been at the very forefront of the death/thrash genre despite years of consistent touring and decent profile records. They have, however, always delivered good, headbanging and violent records for riff-lovers to enjoy. Slaves of the Shadow Realm won’t (didn’t, it was released in January, I think) change things for the band, but even following a lengthy recording hiatus their core work of strong riffs, throat-tearing vocal-work and unadulterated aggression hasn’t dwindled. A few slower, but no less effective songs, and the short length of the album (under 40 minutes without the bonus tracks) guarantee a good time. It’s getting hard to not feel sorry for a band that still lacks those gargantuan ace riffs and killer songs to take them to the next level after so much so promising work.
Sulphur is back again, with yet another completely revamped line-up for Urn—continuing largely from where he left off with The Burning, with a more melodic take on black/thrash that was once so purely savage. Iron Will of Power has brought back some of the aggression that was a bit missing on The Burning, and is more viciously riff-centric than its predecessor, though that isn’t to say IWoP is without a new wind of its own. Urn has gone far into heavy metal territory for inspiration this time, which gives the most melodic songs newfound potency and enhances the vocal hooks in songs like “Spears of Light.” With more aggression and sharper riffs than last time around, a better handle on the broadening palette, better songwriting and a more focused sense of arc-building throughout the record, Iron Will of Power is up to challenge Urn’s earliest work as their best.
For a decade, Evil Angel was a necro-thrash force to be reckoned with. Three demos, an EP, four splits and a full-length later they seemed to have disappeared. While its members did remain active in the likes of Front, Urn, Witchtiger, Satanic Torment and Sacrilegious Impalement, there remained voices that were not content on the loss of such a promising force, and to the joy of those voices, over ten years after their disappearance, Evil Angel is back. Only bassist Revenant is a new face, as his predecessor TooLoud sat behind the kit, but even so, he has a joint history with the other members in some of the previously mentioned bands. This is the most primal material featured today, from the pounding opener, “Necro Black Mass,” the absolute bulldozer “Christ Decays” and Toilet ov Hell Song Title of the Year 2019-award winning “UGH!” to the Archgoat-thrash of “Legions of Armageddon” and Sarcofago stylings of “Ritual Sacrifice,” Unholy Evil Metal does one thing only. It pounds your face in.
This isn’t an album I expected to see on Svart Records’ roster but here we are. Quebecois thrashers Warsenal are a rabid group emulating Destruction, Razor and Whiplash, but with a convincingly original take on a classic sound. While they tend to keep their songs fairly straightforward, the adroit riffing and somewhat riff salad-like structures with sudden tempo changes and further twisting old riffs can occasionally make Feast Your Eyes seem remarkably less so. While the band’s sheer passion and energy keep the songs together and engaging, instead of losing themselves in the maze of fortuitous structures, the album could direly use a few hooks in “Total Destruction” or “Flag of Hate,” especially as the material can get quite homogeneous. (I often find myself wondering if there are even choruses here.) But in the end, Feast Your Eyes is an excellent thrash record loaded with some of the best riffs of 2019, and if they can somehow replicate this thing without it feeling redundant and give me just a few of those hooks, and also let me know of the album a good few months earlier than I did about this, then I’ve no doubt Warsenal will be crafting (one of) the best record(s) of 202(0/1).
Nocturnal Breed may have quick fingers and a knack for crafting excellent black/thrash riffage, but several of their records have been grossly overlong and played out more like a collection of songs from different eras and periods instead of being planned in any meaningful way. Pretty much all of them have been way too much of a good time for any of that to really even hurt them. We Only Came for the Violence is only a bit too long and features more variation between the songs than some of their other records. It’s inconsistent for sure, with an absolutely ripping front, a mid-paced, bulldozing mid and a back-half that’s a little all over the place, but also some of the most fun thrash put out this year, with an unhinged vocal performance to remember.
Another one that got featured on That Other Podcast. (Guess what! I still don’t listen to it, absolutely nothing has changed in the time that has passed between the writing of these two blurbs! And if I don’t do something, it doesn’t exist.) Still carrying that torch of mid-80’s South American thrash metal with bits of the Teutonic scene in there, Hellish‘s new 3-song EP, Poison, also seems to be leaning into some black/speed amalgamation stronger than before, though it’s more of something to distinguish the release from its predecessors, instead of redefining the band’s style. Rougher than Grimoire and more aggressive than The Spectre of Lonely Souls (both of which were excellent records in their own right), Poison has a hauntingly ghoulish vibe to its mix, and a punky no-fucks-given attitude to its playing to degrees that haven’t been present before. Riff like motherhecker, die like a heckdanger. Don’t do drugs, don’t swear and keep your nose clean. Advice to live by.
Each band has their Bandcamp page linked above for your convenience, where available. And even if there isn’t one, each band has their Facebook page linked so you can go tell them why this is your favourite blog, and also a place to get the record from.