While attending last year’s Maryland Deathfest, I went on a record shop hunt because that’s what I generally do when I visit a town I previously haven’t (or at least haven’t in a long time). To my utter glee was The Sound Garden record shop in Baltimore, where I could have spent all day and blown a ton of money if I was a little more free spending. It was magical.
We don’t have a shop with quite that expansive of vinyl metal offerings where I live, and it left me in quandary of just what to buy while I was there. I settled for Testament’s “New Order,” one of my favorite thrash records ever and one that shaped some of my musical tastes growing up, and Bolt Thrower’s “In Battle There Is No Law!” something I had been seeking for quite some time. It was a spectacular day. I got into the vinyl revolution kind of late and have been playing catch-up for some time finding some of the classic records I wanted in my collection, and hearing them reaffirmed my undying love for both bands and the early sounds of both thrash and death metal. I got into thrash way before death, and I always kind of feel protective of it and immensely disappointed new bands try to recreate an aesthetic they cannot possibly understand. I’m sure younger fans who are all into those bands read jerks like me and wonder what my problem is when it comes to modern thrash. It usually just doesn’t feel right.
But there are bands that get both thrash and classic death right, as I’ve admitted in the past, and two of those are coming your way by way of Unspeakable Axe, an imprint of the unstoppable Dark Descent Records (that generally concentrates on death, black, and doom metal) here to put focus on bands that covet early thrash, as well as classic death and black metal. The two bands we’re discussing today have tenets of death and doom but also thrash forward with intensity and in a way that warms my old, judgmental heart. They make me remember what I love about true thrash metal and early death and why they ignited my interest in extreme metal.
First up are Italian death-thrashers Omnivore, whose self-titled debut record is here for your enjoyment and who strike memories of early thrashers such as Nuclear Assault, Exodus, Hirax, Kreator, and more of that ilk but who also have some death tendencies in their sound. They play confrontational, agitated, sometimes snotty thrash that takes your face and mashes it in their sound. While a great sounding band–it’s made up of is made up of guitarist/vocalist Pol (also of Skarsfukkers), guitarist Josh (also of Skarsfukker, as well as Overcharge), bassist Giona (ex-Nightmare of Fallen), and drummer Ste–they don’t seem the type to wow you with their prowess or polish, and if you have an issue with that, your apology isn’t likely forthcoming.
After a cloudy weird intro cut, the band blasts into “Dead,” complete with a quote from the movie “Watchmen” and nasty, raspy thrash that goes right for the throat. The basslines are mega thick, and the guitar work is hot enough to burn skin. “Trust” drinks deeply from the 1980s canon, and they’re convincing in conjuring a sense of true thrash mayhem with grisly shouts and powerful gang vocals that certainly will be howled back at the band live. Then it’s into “I Hope the War Comes,” a track Dave Mustaine might have been able to muster decades ago before his balls fell off, as it has elements of speed, drubbing doom, and a sense that at any moment, the bomb could go off leaving the entire world choking in its last breath.
“Hypochrist” opens with a lengthy portion of the televangelist speech from the 2004 “Dawn of the Dead” remake, rebuking humankind for their behavior and so-called sins, and out of that erupts a lightning-fast assault, with more gang shouts, the tempo and intensity boiling over, and an old-school finish that should make us older folks feel right at home. “Nothing More Than Dust” is the longest cut at 6:28, and it opens on a sinister note, with a dark, foreboding lead guitar line that eventually meets up with more chaos. The song ignites, the band gallops at a reckless pace, and once the smoke finally dies down from all of the carnage, charnel winds begin to blow and acoustic guitars comes to the surface. The playing is smart and classically inspired, showing a different side to the band. Of course there’s a song called “Omnivore,” something you only can get away with in metal, and it’s a killer. The riffs feel like old Slayer, and the song goes from charging ahead to more calculated moments, with the whole thing drowning out in noise. Closer “Arise” is an absolute barnburner, wearing their Sepultura influences on their sleeves with this thunderous cover that puts a giant dagger of an exclamation point onto the end of this album.
Next is Philly crew TrenchRot, a band that might remind you of the aforementioned Bolt Thrower, as well as Asphyx, Hail of Bullets, and Pestilence. Those bands are more death-minded acts, all with war on their minds, but they also have enough traces back to thrash metal that there’s a clear crossover appeal. TrenchRot have that at their core as well, and their debut record “Necronomic Warfare” is one probably better served on the Unspeakable Axe label because they fit better under this umbrella. This band consisting of guitarist/vocalist Steve Jansson (of Dark Descent band Crypt Sermon), guitarist Brooks Wilson (also of Crypt Sermon), bassist Steve Geptik, and drummer Justin Bean have what it takes to whip their audiences into a frenzy, creating great chaos and the desire to see nations fall. They’re that damn explosive.
Of course the band opens with “Death By TrenchRot,” because how else could they possibly do it? It’s grindy, has fumes of death, and revels in speed that’ll bash your head apart. “Gustav Gun” is situated in tasty, violent riffs (one of the band’s strong points throughout the record), and this is one where the Bolt Thrower influence, intentional or not, really comes shining through. I mean that in a good way, of course. “The Most Unspeakable of Acts” launches with Jansson howling, “Go!” as a practical battle cry, leading the band into pulverizing chugging, a thrash groove that is infectious, and shouts of, “Your sanity is under attack!” and, “Only death is your reprieve.” How can you not want to join the in war after hearing this one? Then it’s on to “Mad Dogs of War,” which is blistering, slow driving in spots, with lead guitar work that is totally scintillating. “Sickening Devotion” then tackles people’s blind faith, with raspy growls, a trucking assault, and a crushing intensity that spares no prisoners. Awesome sounding cut.
“Necrotic Victory” imagines “the skeleton army rising from hell,” as it settles into a meaty little segment, and that paves the way for “Maddening Aggression,” a faster song with a rather catchy chorus (you’ll bruise your vocal chords singing it back) and guitars wailing at full blaze. The 7:25-long title cut follows and takes its time getting started, with a murky, foggy opening that sounds like the soundtrack to a horror film, but before long you’re mired in thrashy goodness, crazed yowls that sound unhinged, and spookiness that drags this track to its conclusion. This is the most purely death metal song on here, and it’s a punisher. “Gallery of the Dead” is nasty and destructive, with more furious chugging leading the way. In fact, the way these guys approach this song is what is missing from so much modern thrash. Study this, kids. No, really. “Trapped Under Treads” takes its time pulverizing you with its doomy pace, molten guitar work, and swollen pain, with the song finally blowing into full-on aggression once it reaches its conclusion. Closer “Dragged Down to Hell” is fast, deadly, and to the point. They waste no time, they don’t mess around, and they give you one final hammering with ugly guitar work, punishing drums that near blasts, and a great finale that pours the last bit of gas on the fire. This is a killer debut from a band that has me really excited to see them do this live and destroy lives.
These two bands reignite how I feel about thrash and death metal in general and give more hope that bands really are out there that get these styles and aren’t just here to ride the wave of some trend. These bands have spirit that those old Testament and Bolt Thrower records have, and that’s a fantastic thing to behold. These bands have a lot to accomplish in front of them before they can be on the same level as those legendary groups, but these are fantastic starts for each. If you’re like me and are dying to find new thrash and death metal with a bloody hearts and sick souls, with roots firmly entrenched, here are the records for you.
For more on TrenchRot, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Trenchrotdeathmetal
For more on Omnivore, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Omnivore/265473320143668
To buy either record, go here: http://unspeakableaxerecords.com/purchase.html
For more on the label, go here: http://unspeakableaxerecords.com/