Thrashmetal: It Lives!

The whole baggy jeans thing was never going to work for me. No disrespect to people who like that style (of whom there are apparently quite a lot) or for whom it is a good look (of whom there are rather fewer), but baggy pants simply make me look like a garden gnome. The mid-1990s were a bad time for me in this respect. It was just difficult to find reasonably narrow jeans off the rack, and for some reason I just didn’t know enough people with sewing machines. For years, my wife assured me that skinny jeans would come back in. I was dubious. I must admit that she was right. Now I can buy jeans off the rack that are decently narrow. I still look like a slob, just not a dumpy slob.

I mention this because it is one of the persistent joys of my music listening life that the musical styles of my youth keep making comebacks long years after the cultural moments in which they were incubated. I was always sort of afraid that punk rock would die, and occasionally it did go into remission. It always seems to come back strong. I remember around 1990 feeling that there was just not much interesting going on in the hardcore scene. Of course, in those days I had a real fascination in the nascent Swedish death metal scene, so my attention was more focused on Entombed and Carnage that on anything that was going on in punk. Then within the space of about a month I got Citizens Arrest A Light in the Darkness, Asbestosdeath Dejection, and, most compellingly of all, Rorschach Remain Sedate. I can still remember the feeling, exhilaration mixed with relief, and a sense that something that was very right with the world still remained.

This same sense of relief recurs in miniature whenever I discover that the thrashmetal of the 1980s is still alive and kicking in the stylistic repertoire of the underground. In the 1990s, bands like Infernö, Gehennah, and Swordmaster flew the banner high. Nowadays you have to look a little more closely to get your fix, but I have found a couple of things that really made ears perk up.

Exhibit A in today’s testimony is the Contra Iglesia y Estado 12” by Chile’s Dekapited. Released late last year, this disc serves up six helpings of totally unapologetic, mosh-heavy thrashmetal. There are probably a hundred bands to whom they could justly be compared. To my ear (and others might disagree) they sound a lot like the earliest incarnation of Death Angel, with adjustments made for the fact they sing in Spanish and that Dekapited’s singer doesn’t employ the high pitched screams that were a trademark of Mark Osegueda’s style circa 1986. Anyway, these guys really have it all: tight, brutal musicianship, aggressively anarchist/anti-christian values, and cover are that looks like it was drawn on the inside of someone’s high school social studies notebook. The production is clean and gives full presence to the chugging guitars and the precision drumming. I know they put a couple of demos out before Contra Iglesia, and if anyone has electronic copies I would be much obliged if you could make one available. This goes double for the band themselves, about whom I would love to write more.

Switching continents (but not formats), Reflexor’s Revenge of the Mycosis is a record with a lot going for it. Reflexor are a bunch of hessians. No, really, they are. They are from Gießen in the German state of Hesse. They probably are the kind of hessians you’re thinking of too, but I really only have their music to go on. Revenge of the Mycosis is mostly mid-tempo with a serious commitment to the whole grind/mosh concept, but they do manage to kick it up a gear on many occasions. They kind of sound like a cross between Bonded by Blood era Exodus and some of the east coast metal bands that came out on Combat in the late 1980s. Could it merely be a coincidence that their singer sounds this much like Paul Baloff? I seriously doubt it, but if it’s true that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then I have to respect these guys for showing the love. In addition to all this, the production is really pro, with the guitars rendered in an authentically thick speed metal mode. And then of course there is the name of their record, which makes no fucking sense at all. For me, this is a major plus.

Finally, I have to say that I was wandering around in the ruins of a record store in these parts and found a serviceable copy of Witchburner’s self-titled first LP. This really takes me back. Is this the best thing that ever came out of Germany? Well, it’s no Sentence of Death or In the Sign of Evil, nor is it quite as good as some of its contemporaries such as Infernö’s Downtown Hades or Gehennah’s King of the Sidewalk. But it’s still quite an enjoyable record to mosh to. It has a much different melodic sense than the other bands mentioned here, although they partook of the full measure of the same springs of aesthetic inspiration. Anyway, I’ve been headbanging away to it for the last couple of days and I recommend that you find it if you can.

Next up for me is some more d-beat, but that might have to wait until the weekend.

Magadh

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