Review: Angelus Apatrida

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I am once again asking what’s up with thrash metal.

There seems to be a consensus, at least here on the Toilet, that thrash metal peaked pretty early and hasn’t done anything interesting in quite a while. When the genre is brought up, it’s usually in conjunction with a qualifier—technical thrash or brutal thrash (think Demolition Hammer or the more recent Besieged and Schizophrenia)—or in conjunction with another genre, e.g. death thrash or blackened thrash. I’ve certainly lauded a couple of albums of these varieties and am generally most fond of somewhat raw thrash that harkens back to extreme metal’s primordial soup rather than a pristine kind that really stands on its own. It seems the style is either best when it recalls its roots or as garnish for other genres.

But what of purebred thrash? Apart from Jimmy’s unending love for Warbringer, we don’t seem very interested in modern-day proponents of the style. However, in revisiting a discussion we had about all this roughly a year ago, I came across a lovely quote from our half-elven friend Link:

“I believe thrash is like your favorite simple burger. Sometimes you eat anything else or experiment, but there is that particular day where you want to feel at home so you ask for that simple, fast, crushing and poignant burger.”

This nicely sums up how I feel about Angelus Apatrida‘s upcoming self-titled album. Now let me tell you this: these dudes know how to make a hell of a burger.

And it’s a good-looking burger, too. While I bemoaned the overly clean sound of the last thrash record I reviewed, it doesn’t come off as lifeless and sterile here, but as a natural consequence of the love and care that went into the product. The drums don’t exactly sound organic, true, but the little flourishes that are added every so often speak of someone who loves his craft. The riffs, rather than just being seviceable, are entirely geared towards entertaining you and propelling a song forward. Everything feels incredibly well thought out, nothing seems like the first draft was good enough (and if it was, all the more kudos to the band’s writing abilities). There’s a great love for detail that is felt all throughout. This is not the mass-produced slop that some tired and rightfully apathetic 20-something hands you at a well-established fast food chain. This is from that back alley joint that you might disregard and walk past, despite the fact that it’s been there for 20 years and has always been run by the same fry cook, who’s devoted all those years to making the best burger he can.

So how does it taste? It tastes like a burger. You’ve probably had hundreds of them in your lifetime. Fancy ones and really basic ones. This is one of the latter. No avocado or truffle mayo on this thing. A bun, meat, and some greenery. It’ll remind you of a lot of other burgers, but perhaps you’ll find an unexpected spice or two. You might also find something that doesn’t immediately appeal to taste buds that are used to underground flavours, as the singer covers a spectrum that ranges from an appropriate but never overly extreme anger to outright melodic sensibilities that serve to provide several really catchy choruses. Anyone in desperate need for something more grimy should remember that this is a burger. Can’t really fault it for aiming at mass appeal. Then again, depending on how many burger places you’ve been to, it’s nothing you’ve never tasted, and you’ll appreciate that these parts are crafted just as well as everything else. Furthermore, every foray into this kind of territory is immediately followed by the band pressing on ahead and focusing on the fundamentals, which, in case I wasn’t clear on that, is what they do really well.

Now, have you ever been to a restaurant where you like everything on the menu? Yeah. Opener “Indoctrinate,” just like an inconspicuous diner, doesn’t make the strongest case for the band at first glance, and also serves a portion that is just slightly too big. I really feel that the scream around the 4:40 mark would have made for a much more satisfying end to the song. Other items I wouldn’t order too often are the obligatory slower songs “Disposable Liberty” and “Through the Glass.” Sure, you want some time to digest in between the rapid-fire onslaught of delicacies, but the songs are too close together to really serve that function, and particularly the latter of them falls flat for me. None of these are major shortcomings though. Ultimately, this is a really fun, well-made record that knows exactly what it wants to be and focuses all its energy on kicking ass at being exactly that.

You might find yourself telling someone about that awesome burger you had once, and when they ask what made it so great, you’ll shrug and say, “It was just a really good burger.”

Angelus Apatrida is out this Friday, February 5th, on Century Media – which means it’s available on every damn music platform except the one you want.

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