I know, I haven't updated my blog in a long time... I'm supposed to be working on a new record though, so cut me some slack... it takes me 7 years to record one LP. I'm like the Brian Wilson of DIY death thrash.
Don’t you ever listen to any metal recorded in the last decade? What’s with the constant flow of old thrash records? We get it, you have two copies of the same Voivod LP! Who the fuck are you trying to impress? You think anyone cares?
These are comments I’m often heckled with while I’m DJing (for either an empty bar or my cats) and it is true that I may lean towards dusty old copies of Xentrix lps and moldy Tankard records in between slightly warped Holy Terror jams, but occasionally I do hear something both new and metal that gets me stoked. Here’s a trio of LPs that were actually released in the last few years that I enjoy, and think you might too. But, like the man with the visor down in engineering says, you don’t have to take my word for it…
STENCH – “In Putrescence”
Brought to you from (where else?) Sweden, Stench is a power trio that features members of the beyond-lethal Swedish death metal act Tribulation (if you missed out on that band’s amazing LP “The Horror” a few years back, correct that grave error ASAP!), and if you’re already a fan of that band (and you should be), you know you’re going to be getting some high caliber shit right here. That said, don’t think you’re getting Tribulation part 2. While some of Tribulation’s strong points are here, such as the top notch musicianship and bone crushing production, the riffing style Stench employs is entirely unique, especially considering that they hail from Sweden. Bizarre genre hopping riffs and stop start blast beat sections come at you in a surreal kaleidoscope of proggy-but-evil as fuck metal, and while Stench’s sound is definitely rooted in Swedish death metal and rougher Swedish black metal, the bizarre chording and harmonies have much more in common with early Voivod or D.B.C. than Marduk or Dismember. The off the wall riffing is so unique that it’s really hard for me to compare to another band, but if you are a fan of Disharmonic Orchestra, we’re talking that level of craziness. Don’t get me wrong though, the songs aren’t a random collection of junky riffs and beats thrown together, these guys write actual, well made songs that are as catchy as that are bizarre, and some of these riffs, like the frenzied, death thrash mosh part in “The Fire” or the Dissection by way of Opthalamia stomp of the fist pounding “Ghosts”, will get stuck in your head the first time you listen to this bad bitch. Great, original top shelf death metal that pushes the edge and comes up with a completely original sound, without sounding silly. This is some mean, hyped up and unique stuff. Super cool gatefold packaging, die-cut record sleeve and theater guide style lyric booklet. If you see it, pick it up or kick yourself in the ass later.
NOCTURNAL BREED – “Fields Of Rot”
Maybe you’ve heard these guys before. When black metal bands first started incorporating thrash metal antics into their sound, and I was burning out my cd player with Aura Noir’s “Black Thrash Attack” I picked up Nocturnal Breed’s first album, “Aggresor”, on the strength of the awesome cover art and Kreator-esque logo, and the hopes that, since they were playing thrash, had members who came from a black metal background, and hailed from Norway just like Aura Noir, they would be of similar ass kicking quality. Wasn’t to be though. While it wasn’t bad, the sort of by the book black thrash never really grabbed me, and I lost track of the band over the years.
Well, I don’t know if they got new members, or just refined/jacked up their style, but this band has been overhauled into a motherfucking molten metal spitting DEMON. If you like top shelf fucking thrash metal, do not miss out on this. We’re talking some serious, highest caliber, destructive, forward thinking blackened thrash metal right here, with not a single moment of wimpy, retro-aping style either. This record deserves to be mentioned right along with Hypnosia and Aura Noir as one of the few bands that has played straight up thrash in recent years and actually moves the genre forward instead of resting on reliving/ripping off the glories of the genres days of yore.
The songs are a gatdam festival of razor sharp riffs, hook after hook, shredding, anthemic guitar solos and amazing musicianship. On this record, Nocturnal Breed is as tight and mean as the best German thrash, but injects some lightning fast shred guitar antics ala “Rust In Peace” as well as some tricks that almost sound like demons inspired by the crazed shred metal riffing of the faster material from bands like Racer X, Abbatoir or Wild Dogs. Cuts such as “Wicked, Vicious and Violent” and the title track, “Fields Of Rot” will have you ready to punch holes in the dry wall of your apartment, and they just get better with repeated listens. We are talking catchy-assed thrash riffs here, and not just a one trick pony either. The songs are all unique and memorable, with hooks all over the place, moving seamlessly from break neck, Kreator speed hyper picking to ass kicking “Orgasmatron” rock before leveling you with some of the most metal mosh parts around… did I mention the mosh parts? Holy shit. When the riffs and double bass lock up for these, it’s the hardest headbangers you’ll have heard in ages, and that’s a fact, jack. Just try not to bang your head when the double bass kicks in on the chorus to “Invasion Of The Body Thrashers”. Your spine will snap if you don’t just give in and rattle your goddamn head.
The drums and bass are no joke either, performed with jaw droppingly tight execution, constantly shifting beneath the shreddy thrash riffing and memorable leads to keep things relentlessly paced and never taking the boot off the listeners neck for even a second. Vocalist S.A. Destroyer sounds like a pissed off cross between Schmier and… well, maybe a Pteradactyl, but at times channels everyone from Tom Warrior, Dave Mustaine, and Lemmy with uncanny accuracy, especially on the sing along “Rattlehead” meets Motorhead cut, Iron Bitch.
Awesome to see bands picking up their game and moving forward. Tons of replay value, highest recommendation. Shit right here will be your jam for months to come, no joke.
Oh yeah, and dig that album cover! Well done… and a poster of it inside to boot. Thanks fellas, I’ll hang it up right now!
HELLISH CROSSFIRE – “Bloodrust Scythe”
OK, I know, you’re sick of retro thrash. I understand. A lot of those new thrash bands stink. Modern production sometimes makes the riffs sound lame. Those kids were all listening to Dying Fetus 2 years ago until they saw Destruction at some fest and decided to patch out their vest, and that can lead to some uninspired, phony sounding tunes. Fair enough. So yeah, I know that at first glance Hellish Crossfire look like they may be one of these bands. Yup, they do indeed stick to the thrash metal play book, they do not include modern touches like blast beats, black metal riffs, or any such shenanigans, and the lyrics/song titles stick to the normal thrash fare (Night Of The Possessed, Speed Hunter, On The Edge Of Total Chaos, etc) and again, I know you’re sick of retro thrash. I get it alright, shut up for a second and listen… if you seriously dig on real, genuine, honest-to-garsh thrash, and you write off this band, you are going to miss out on a great fucking metal album.
Like I said, Hellish Crossfire, with their obvious love of Iron Angel, denim vests, satan, and 80s thrashmetal are not re-inventing the wheel or trying to put a modern spin on their tunes, but instead, these guys focus all their considerable musicianship on just straight ripping shit up. You can just tell this is genuine, poser crushing, headbanging real-deal straight from the guts thrash/speed metal. The playing is fantastic. Tight, mean, and as straight forward as it is well played, it’s a real shame if this guys get lumped in with half assed freshcut thrash bands, because any real metal head will be able to instantly tell these guys are doing this shit not because it’s some trend or gimmick, but because they eat, sleep, breathe and bleed thrash metal. I guess the best way to put it is, this stuff is just well executed and classy, and it comes across in the quality of the songs here. While it doesn’t bang you over the head with a mallet on first listen like the Nocturnal Breed or Stench lps will, the obvious care, musicianship and understanding of how to make a real metal song will have you coming back for repeated plays, and this is one of those sleepers that gets better and better with more listens.
The obvious comparisons would be the first Sacrifice, German thrash classics, and early Slayer, but mixing it up with some speed metal and NWOBHM touches (there’s some total fist pumping Saxon style breakdowns on this) and really fun, interesting, well thought out song structures. Let me repeat though, this LP is filled with superior guitar playing, solid tunes and a real conviction and ear for what makes a metal song work and it gives the whole record a vibe not unlike Dissection or Watain… not that they sound like those bands (although there are some Dissection-esque moments here and there), but that this shit is authentic, get it? OK, let's move on for christs sake.
The production is right were it should be for these tunes as well, and serves the music perfectly. With this style, the production can easily break it, with a too big and digital sound or too clicky drums, thrash can loose it’s vibe very quickly. That never happens here, the sound on “Bloodrust Scythe” is clear, loud and professional without sounding overly produced for even a moment, from the gated reverb on the vocals to the sizzling, JCM900 guitar sound, it all cuts through perfectly over the rock solid, musical drumming, with just enough a of a modern touch to keep it from sounding like a re-hash, but not so much that it looses the real-deal vibe and sounds like it’s pandering to Ozzfest kids or false hipster mettalers.
What I’m trying to get across in case you haven’t gathered it yet, is that Hellish Crossfire play extremely well done straight up old school thrash with conviction, and it’s done so godamwell that it’s a crime to dump it in with the poser-y muckety muck of the mid 2000’s retro-thrash junk. If you have an honest to Satan love of ripping, well done thrash and speed metal, I’d grab this at your earliest convenience and dig in.