Archive for thrash metal

Review: Subtype Zero

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , on March 30, 2020 by Magadh

Subtype Zero, Ceremonious Extinction, Seeing Red Records (2020)

When I finally tumbled on to Subtype Zero’s first release, The Astral Awakening about six months ago, I kind of felt like a chump for not having heard it sooner. I know I talk about how much harder it was to find out what was going on back in the days of tape trading and photocopied fanzines, and every time I do I kind of feel like one of those elves in a Tolkien novel banging on about how horrible (or awesome) things were 5000 years ago. But if a thrash metal record of this quality is going to be put out by a band from Cleveland I feel like it should cause my spider-sense to tingle at least a little bit.

The Astral Awakening is one of the more ripping straight thrash metal records you’re ever going to hear. If you’re like me and you keep waiting for Power Trip to drop another CD you could do a lot worse than to fill the intervening time with this. Subtype Zero pack 12 songs into 29 minutes and change, which tells you something about their approach. Their songs get to the point quickly and don’t overstay their ideas. They’ve got lots of chugging guitars and double bass thumping and the playing is pretty razor-sharp.

I feel kind of bad for these guys. They were just about to leave on tour to support their newest release, Ceremonious Extinction, when the zombie plague hit and everything to knocked into a cocked hat. Obviously, things could have been worse. The whole thing might have happened while they were on the road (or they might have caught the zombie plague themselves) but you could kind of forgive them for feeling like (what must have been) a lot of hard work was getting derailed.


Well, I’ve been waiting around my house for the scheduled release date of Ceremonious Extinction, which was three days ago, and I’ve now had the chance to listen to it a couple of dozen times (because what the fuck else do I have to do with my time). The four songs here absolutely shred. Three of the four are less than three minutes, while the other is four minutes and change. Once again, short and to the point is a virtue. Dripping with dark aggression, this about the best thing I’ve heard this year.

Ok, the year is only three months old, but you get my point. Subtype Zero absolutely deliver the goods. “Esoteric Illusion” absolutely fires out of the gate with some kick-ass thrash, punctuated with the obligatory whammy bar solos and pinch harmonics. There are a decent number of changes of tempo in a song that only lasts 2:18. If you guessed that the follow-up cut, “Ethereal Spirit,” started about with a head-bang-inducing double bass run, well, you’d be right.

I’m really bitter about a lot of things associated with the current situation, not the least of which being that it cost me a chance of seeing them live. So I hope all this stuff gets sorted out soon, and, yes, for the obvious humanitarian motives. But I do also need to get my mosh on, so I need these guys to be able to play in person. If you think I’m going to be headbanging to Ceremonious Extinction like some sort of nerd in front of my computer, you are 100% correct.

Review: Power Trip

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on April 13, 2017 by Magadh

Power Trip, Nightmare Logic, Southern Lord

power trip2There are a number of things that differentiate this disc from Power Trip’s previous outing (2013’s Manifest Decimation), but the one that you’re really going to notice if you’ve heard the earlier release is the production. Manifest Decimation was a good record in a lot of respects, an example of the mid-80s style thrashmetal that occasionally lifts its head above the sea of black metal and grindcore. It has some pretty good songwriting and a decent degree of aggression. The main problem was that the recording seemed so awash in something (reverb probably) that it made the songs hard to discern.

I’ve got no problem with raw recording values in metal and hardcore. Sometimes, given the right overall tone, it can add an element of atmosphere (I won’t tax you by reciting where I think this is the case but if you page back some of my reviews you will find ample evidence). But in the case of Manifest Decimation, it just made it difficult to follow the chord changes without really adding the needed atmospheric dimension.

I am happy to report that this problem has been sorted in their new disc. Nightmare Logic is crisply recorded and features a wealth of punch, intense thrash metal cuts. Those who heard their split with Integrity from last year will have seen the moves in this direction, but the release of Nightmare Logic shows that they can put it together for a whole album’s worth of material, which is worthy of note. And let’s be clear: this album absolutely rips. They don’t have quite the tonality of a band like Havok, but they are none the worse for being a bit nastier.

power trip1As you might expect given the four year gap between their full releases, there are other improvements to be noted. Power Trip have made notable advances in terms of songwriting and arranging. Their sound is reminiscent (at least to my ear) the thrashmetal bands that labels like Combat seemed to release with such frequency back in 1980s, particularly Dark Angel, with whom they share more than a passing similarity. That said, their songs are more complex and intensively developed than Dark Angel were in their heyday.

That said, their songs are more complex and intensively developed than Dark Angel were in their heyday. Power Trip’s songs are full of little back picked elements that add power in ways that are hard to quantify or to describe in the abstract. I found myself thinking of the picking style of Artillery’s first couple of records. The drums are clearer as well, and I really loved the snare sound, thick and thudding, but with enough tone to cut through and be heard.

Nightmare Logic is one of the best exemplars of the thrashmetal genre to be released in at least the last five years. It’s got a lot of variety and changes of speed, and the musicianship is about as close to flawless you’re ever going to hear. I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting a great deal to begin with, these guys have produced some really hard rocking stuff that’s going to be infesting my stereo (and tormenting my neighbors) for a long time to come.

Review: Warbringer

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , on June 16, 2012 by Magadh

Warbringer Worlds Torn Asunder Century Media

I suppose we all like a little nostalgia from time to time. Listening to Infernö and Gehenna in the 1990s gave one a little taste of that moment of the first time you dropped the needle on Hell Awaits, or the day you got the Exodus demo in the mail. There will always be a place in the metal world for bands that recall the halcyon days of thrashmetal in the mid-1980s. It’s a sign of the essential quality of that music. On the other hand, there was a lot of mediocre metal in those days, and I suppose that I shouldn’t be surprised that that is getting revived as well.

For your consideration, I offer Warbringer’s most recent release, Worlds Torn Asunder. I must admit that the enjoyed the first couple of Warbringer discs. For me, they were a throwback to bands from the 1980s like Dark Angel: they were enjoyable for a couple of listens but they never quite had the quality of songwriting to lift them into the top level of thrashmetal elite. Warbringer demonstrate mastery of a lot of the fundamental elements of the genre. There is a lot of double bass thumping and damped chugging. The vocals are gruff, but clean enough such that you can understand what is being said. So what’s not to like?

Well, for starters, there’s not a great deal of progression across their catalog. This might strike some as a sort of an odd expectation for a band whose stock in trade is 1980s atavism. However, it’s one thing to like the style, and another to be satisfied hearing the same record over and over again. If you put the first three Warbringer discs on shuffle, you will be hard pressed to figure out for sure which songs come from which record, unless you are one of those brave souls who have conceded enough of your life span to recognize each song individually.

Warbringer’s most recent offering is, it must be said, a bit more varied than previous releases. It is nonetheless the case that they are sort of trapped by the format. Essentially, there are three stylistic choices for a band like this. They go more technical. Alternatively, they can take the At the Gates route and up the level of brutality. (If you’re wondering about that reference, just listen Slaughter of the Soulnext anything else that At the Gates released). Or they can just wallow in the style that they’ve been doing so far. Clearly, it is this third choice that they have gone for. Once again, atavism isn’t a bad thing in and of itself. The thing that differentiates bands like Infernö and Gehenna from Warbringer is that their atavism consisted in an effort to take the format back to it’s roots, thereby to recapture some the rawness and intensity that had been lost by subsequent purveyors. Warbringer was a throwback to a style that is already fully developed and plunging headlong toward decadence. It’s like trying to renovate rock and roll by starting a Genesis cover band.

In spite of all of this, it must be said that Worlds Torn Asunder is not a bad record. Even with the significant lineup changes that Warbringer have gone through in the last couple of years, they have retained their core sound and technical consistency. What it comes down to is a calculation that each listener must make between love of the style itself the actual quantity of one’s lifetime that should be devoted to hearing the same old thing. Given the choice, I’ll probably just listen to Hell Awaits again.