With little fanfare or hype, Cincinnati-based thrashers War Curse have arrived with their official debut via Static Tension Recordings. Final Days is everything that good thrash should be: Catchy, quick to the point, precisely executed with plenty of shredding solos, and enough punk/hardcore grit to give it a snarling edge. War Curse lean toward the mid-paced end of the thrash spectrum, but what they lack in blinding speed is made up in powerful delivery and attitude (thrash-itude?). Fans of Testament, Havok, and Slayer’s early 90s output will certainly resonate with War Curse’s first outing.
Any kind of “neo” revival in a genre is bound to bring hordes of mediocre bands into the fold, and thrash has been no exception. The movement in thrash revival has brought us bands like Municipal Waste and Havok, but has also brought us endless pizza-party crap and imitators. War Curse aren’t reinventing the wheel, but on Final Days they are able to fuse the best aspects of traditional thrash with those of thrash revival without ever aping either of the two. They combine the efficient, straightforward songwriting of the old school with the lean, polished sound of newer outfits, and the production calls to mind that past few Exodus albums. Over the course of six long-ish (5-6 min each, except the opener) tracks, War Curse utilize simple but memorable riffs to their advantages, and when combined with Tarek Puska’s commanding presence on the vocals, each song has its own set of strengths and earworm hooks.
Far from a one-trick show, Final Days showcases War Curse’s range of songwriting. Opener “Dawn Patrol” busts out of the gate with machine-precision riffs and tight, relentless drums before leading into an anthemic chorus and excellent solo. “Blue Line of Injustice” strikes into more melodic territory, as does closer “Drudge,” with sensibilities close to …And Justice For All. “New Chemical Warfare” (subtle homage to Slayer, eh?!) brings out the band’s hardcore influences but also introduces battering grooves without veering into tepid metalcore. The band’s control of pacing is what makes Final Days such a repeatable listen, and with a short runtime, it flies by. With Puska’s grim, apocalyptic lyrics at the helm, there are also plenty of memorable choruses and tag lines, especially toward the end of “Severed Crosses.”
The production job on Final Days is one of its highlights as well. The bass guitar has the familiar “clang” of Exodus, the drums are sharp and hard-hitting, and the guitars are polished but far from sterile. Puska’s gritty yells are seated perfectly, and Final Days hits a sweet spot between being punchy but not overly compressed. If the record is an representation of what War Curse sound like in a live environment, I will definitely make the drive to see these guys on a tour circuit.
Final Days won’t be changing the minds of those who aren’t into thrash with heavy currents of punk and traditional metal, but then again, with an album this good, why aren’t you listening to thrash anyway?