CD Review: “Years Of Aggression” by Suicidal Angels

Greek thrashers Suicidal Angels aim to live up to the title of its seventh release, Years Of Aggression. The whiff of nostalgia is present throughout the album, with Eighties era guitar riffs meshed with stellar leads compliments of guitarist Gus Drax. Unfortunately, the album falls a bit flat as the aggression is somewhat repressed. Album opener “Endless War” commences with a swarming guitar riff that transitions in to a tight galloping riff. Front man and guitarist Nick Melissourgos provides sharp, raspy vocals that fit the gripping nature of the track. However, it is Drax’s blistering, neo-classical solo that is the highlight on this track. A strong opening, however, it leaves one with the impression that the band could play faster and heavier. This feeling is slightly diminished on “Born Of Hate” with its Swedish death metal vibe. The guitar work is superb as Melissourgos and Drax trade off swift guitar lines, but this track is still marred by a lack of pushing the envelope. The title track is dynamic and drummer Orpheas Tzortzopoulos pounds his kit like a madman. The quartet hit the nail on the head at the album’s halfway point on “D.I.V.A.” which is the shortest track on the album. The ripping riffs are supported by relentless yet technical drumming. It is just a shame that Suicidal finally finds its aggression when the album is halfway over. The main riff on “Order Of Death” hits like a mallet to the gut which is only exacerbated by the walloping drum beats. Drax unleashes a sweeping guitar lead that adds to the madness. “The Roof Of Rats” is pure, primal thrash with a encircling riff that will incite a mosh pit. The song’s midsection slows down for a breather before the band begins its second assault on this track. Album closer “The Sacred Dance With Chaos” begins with a disturbing clean guitar passage before the electric guitars take over, maintaining the same dissonant riff. The dark groove invokes a dance macabre that stops during the midsection for a somber acoustic lead. “Sacred Dance” ends Aggression on a sinister high note, and a much needed one at that.

The second half of Years Of Aggression is much superior to the first half. The songs are heavier, diverse and the band rips it up while taking risks. The same cannot be said for the first half as it is somewhat contrived and Suicidal dial it in at times. One knows the band is capable of playing high quality thrash and it is frustrating when the guys plays it safe. There is nothing wrong with paying homage to the old school, provided that you do it right. We see this on tracks like “The Roof Of Rats” with its maniacal riffing as the band moves full speed ahead.

Years of Aggression is saved by its second half. Suicidal Angels now has seven records under its belt so folks expect quality. Sure, every band slips up due to wanting to branch out with its music. However, when a band titles its record Years Of Aggression, one expects to hear fast paced, pummeling, take no prisoners thrash metal. This is especially true of a band that formed 18 years ago and has made a mark in the metal world. Now is not the time for the band to rest on its laurels. Metal heads still and will always need music to get out our aggression.

Check out the band’s official website: https://www.suicidalangels.net/

CD Review: “Jungle Rot” by Jungle Rot

After 25 years, Jungle Rot decided to name an album after the band. Jungle Rot is the tenth album from the band and is replete with the band’s signature sound of death metal groove and thrashing breakouts. Drummer Jesse Beahler, who played on Terror Regime in 2013, has returned and provides a technical edge missing on the band’s 2015 effort Order Shall Prevail. Album opener “Send Forth Oblivion” showcases Beahler’s skills as the song’s tempo seamlessly shifts from fast to mid-paced. The guitar riffs are chaotic and hit the listener from all sides. “Delusional Denial” is an onslaught of death-meets-thrash with front man and guitarist Dave Matrise unleashing machine gun riffs like a cornered gangster. The following track “A Burning Cinder” continues where “Delusional Denial” left off, providing a maelstrom of blast beats, descending riffs and Matrise harsh lyrics aimed at government corruption and greedy corporate officials. “Triggered” is a good ol’ hardcore stomp with Matrise and second guitarist Geoff Bub hammering out plodding riffs. This track induces headbanging and Matrise’s guttural yell before the breakdown is icing on the bloody cake. “Stay Dead” is another dynamic hitter with a bludgeoning riff that drives the song. The band pays homage to Kreator with a cover of the German thrash legends’ 1987 song “Terrible Uncertainty.” We see Jungle Rot’s thrash influence with this track as it twists and turns like a serpent.

Jungle Rot is superior to its predecessor Order Shall Prevail, as this record is more focused and aggressive. When the band plays fast, it plays fast and when it grooves, it grooves. While Matrise, Bub and bassist James Genenz are especially cohesive on this album, Beahler’s drumming provides the technical framework for the others to expound their playing. The riffs are more technical and the songs less restrained than the tracks on Order Shall Prevail .The production is clear and sharp which is great during the fast parts on this record.

Jungle Rot is arguably the band’s best record since Kill On Command in 2011. This record surpasses the band’s previous two albums by successfully melding the band’s penchant for playing in the pocket with technical precision. Jungle Rot is certainly worth the three year wait. I just hope the next record is released sooner. Highly recommended for fans of death metal and thrash.

Check out the band’s official website:

http://www.jungle-rot.com/

Sabaton / Kreator / CyHra at The Fillmore Silver Spring

On a Wednesday night, on the outskirts of Washington D.C., a flood of people packed into The Fillmore Silver Spring for a night of metal mayhem.  Camo pants were being sported by a great many, and I even noted one individual wearing a pauldron.  Everyone was fully prepared to rock out this Wednesday evening, March 7, 2018, and rock they did to sounds from European soils: CyHra, Kreator, and Sabaton.

CyHra: Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

The opening act was one I had only begun to hear about: the part Swedish, part Finnish, part German conglomerate known as CyHra.  Formed of former members of In Flames, Amaranthe, Shining, and Annihilator (as well as a concurrent member of Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody), the mere thought of this band peaks the interest before any music hits your ears.  Described by vocalist, Jake E, as “really catchy metal,” you can totally understand what he says from the opening notes of their debut, Letters To Myself.  After listening to this release, which truly doesn’t copy any of their previous acts, I was surprised, wondering how they could possibly pull off this material in concert without losing some aspect of the studio magic.  But you know, they made it work surprisingly well!  In fact, the band was extremely animated and had the audience in the palm of their hands.  “Pretend you’re at a 70s Scorpions concert!” Jake E shouted, answered by the glow of hundreds of cellphones waving in the air, screens ablaze.

For whatever reason, bassist Peter Iwers couldn’t make the North American tour.  Regardless of this unfortunate occurrence, the veteran foursome who were present put on one hell of a performance, and fans were saddened when they had reached the end of their set.  I heard at least one person who hadn’t heard them prior to this proclaim, “I’ve got to get a copy of this album” after the music had ceased.

 

Kreator: Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

The thrash legends, Kreator, were up next.  Personally, I thought this would be a jarring change from the melody-driven music of the opener, and I wasn’t wrong!  The night took a left turn from its existing direction and entered a world claimed by the Flag Of Hate.  This world was full of staccato stage lighting (not recommended for those with epileptic episodes), circle pits, crowd surfing, and headbangers in the rafters.  Frontman Mille Petrozza pronounced “We heard Maryland is known for one thing…its moshpits!” much to the chagrin of the security in the room.  Not less than a few times were myself and other photographers moved aside to catch impending crowdsurfers.

The German metallers pulled out songs from nine albums of their catalog, going all the way back to their 1985 debut, Endless Pain, though the majority of tracks came from their two most recent albums, Phantom Antichrist and Gods Of Violence.  Needless to say, fans were overjoyed.

 

Sabaton: Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

Sabaton, I am sad to say, is another failure on my part of not being familiar with them sooner.  The name has rung a bell for years, but I had never sat down and listened to their material.  I was surprised to find myself in the realm of anthemic, military heavy metal.  Caught between dueling guitars, war helmet mic stands, and goofing off…I was caught filled with joy.  This is what I imagine happens when every member of the band is an extrovert.  I swear, every word of every song was sung by the audience, mirroring Joakim Brodén’s lead vocals, to the point where it was difficult to differentiate who I was actually hearing.  Every so often the crowd would be moved to the point of leaping in unison, and I felt the building trembling by the combined force of their return to Earth alongside the reverberating speakers.

But I think the point where I really realized this band is truly amazing was when, mid-verse, guitarist Tommy Johansson came over to Joakim, who was kneeling down, and literally knocked him over. “What the—?!“ sputtered the frontman, before Johansson sat on him, all while continuing to play guitar and Brodén struggled to get up.  After a couple of seconds the guitarist ceased his assault, and Joakim returned to his feet, singing while attempting not to laugh, and throwing the bird at Johansson.  The crowd ate it up, and so did I.  In the words of Frank Zappa, “shall we take ourselves seriously?”  The answer, my friends, is clearly no.

With each brief intermission the band took, whether to get a drink of water or to change guitars, chants of “SA-BA-TON!” echoed through the venue.  From my vantage point, I could see the band members laughing each time it occurred, because it arrived so quickly after they ceased playing!  “We should tour here more often,” Brodén stated, “because you all, on a WEDNESDAY, are a more lively audience than some places we’ve played on the weekend.”  And it’s true.  I’m not sure I’ve ever witnessed a more energetic crowd, here or at any other venue.  There was a remarkable electricity running through the building, and it was one I was sad to see come to an end.  And while the North American tour has come to an end as well, you should do your darndest to catch any of these bands in concert, wherever you might find them.  You will not find disappointment.

CD Review: “Decision Day” by Sodom

It took three years, but the legendary Teutonic thrash outfit Sodom is back with its fifteenth record, Decision Day. This year marks the 35th anniversary of the band’s formation in 1981. However, the band still retains the aggression and Satanic vigor of its early years. The opening track, “In Retribution,” blasts through with reckless abandon with its chainsaw riffing and maniacal drumming. Frontman and bassist Tom Angelripper’s fiendish shrieks are as menacing as they were on Persecution Mania. The title track has a strong Slayer influence with its dissonant guitar chords and double bass drumming. It is a thrasher with a solid groove but a little underwhelming compared to the initial track. However, the barraging “Caligula” is a mammoth tribute to the decadent Roman emperor. The lumbering guitar riffs sound like a centurion of demons clearing a path for Caligula himself. A Sodom record is not complete without a blasphemous track, and “Who Is God” fulfills that requirement. The punkish tempo moves things at a hellish pace before it is drowned by a molten breakdown towards the end of the song. Another standout is the hellish “Belligerence” with its sinister meld of groove, blast beats and punk. The schizophrenic nature of the track puts the listener on alert for its duration, never knowing what will happen next.

Decision Day does not attempt the reinvent the wheel. Sodom is more than able to do what it wants at this point. Still, the trio deserves props for not simply dialing it in. Decision Day has great songs and there is some solid musicianship. One should not forget that Sodom was the least technical band out of the “Teutonic Three” with Destruction and Kreator pushing the musical envelope. Still, Sodom won the award for being the most extreme out of the trio both in music and lyrics. Decision Day shows the band playing blackened thrash the way it is meant to be played, nothing more and certainly no less. The production is slightly murky, and it works as it gives the music a raw edge.

Well, the grizzled trio have created another devilish treat with Decision Day. The are some solid songs on this record that will cause headbanging and moshing on the band’s upcoming tour. That is all that matters at this point. Sodom have a winning formula and it sticks to it on Decision Day. If one decides to purchase this record they will not be disappointed.

For news and tour dates, check out the band’s website http://www.sodomized.info/?l=en

CD Review: ‘Mass Confusion’ by Dust Bolt

German thrash outfit Dust Bolt cut to the chase on Mass Confusion. The opening track, “Sick X Brain” is one minute of full on crossover thrash. The blitzkrieg rages on with the title track which starts with chugging riffs before the band launches a thrash onslaught. There are strains of Metallica, Dirty Rotten Imbeciles, and Destruction on this track, showing the versatility of the band. The pummeling breakdown in the middle of this song is gold. The initial single, “Allergy” is a frantic riff tornado that that gives the listener little room to breathe. Things get a hectic on “Mind The Gap” with its time signature changes, but drummer Nico Remann keeps it all together. It is one of the more interesting tracks on the record especially with its shredding lead. “Exit” is a somber semi-acoustic number that breaks up the ferocity of the record. It is not filler and prevents the record from sounding monotonous.

Mass Confusion is thrash metal played right. The Teutonic quartet has done its homework, drawing influence from the thrash and hardcore groups of the 80s. Mass Confusion is not too crossover or too thrash and finds a solid median. The musicianship is top notch as guitarists Lenny Breuss and Flo Dehn play well with each other. The duo seamlessly trade riffs and keep a tight rhythm. The album is produced well as there is no clipping and the instruments do not bleed in to one another.

Dust Bolt were not confused when recording Mass Confusion. The band has all its marbles on this, its third record, and plays them well. Mass Confusion is a great thrash/crossover record that is a cut above the current but stale thrash revival scene. The band puts its own unique spin on an older subgenre to good results. Fans of The Haunted, Municipal Waste and Toxic Holocaust should pick up this record. Dust Bolt bring the speed.

For news and tour dates, check out Dust Bolt’s website: http://dustbolt.com/