On Anger As Art‘s fifth full length, Ad Mortem Festinamus the band has finally put all of their influences and deep personal lineage in thrash metal to good use. With each release the output has consistently been more cohesive. The band hinted at the Bay Area glory days on their previous release Hubris, Inc. but failed to capitalize. Hinting no more, the band forcefully rips the scab off and comes away with an album steeped in it. In addition there’s a couple of surprises to boot.
The Bay Area thrash scene was a sight and sound to behold during its heyday. Spawning many acts in its wake but most noticeably the ‘Big 4’. California’s Anger As Art owe much to this era of time and do their part to pay proper tribute as well as commingle heavy influences from their own past in bands such as Abbatoir, Bitch and Necroscope, just to name a few. The scene as it was in the 80’s was the antithesis to the glam metal influx, not only just in sound but in appearance as well. Thrashers didn’t don makeup or big, teased up hair they just looked like your average joe but with denim battle jackets. Just as this band stays true to the past with their music they do the same in looks, so it’s a whole package type of deal with them.
Their roots run true in “Pissing On Your Grave”, the thrash of early Exodus meets head on with Peace Sells era Megadeth for a tight and nod inducing throwback. Later, the bruising “LA State of Mind” eminates early Overkill with speed demon riffs and a muddier sound than any of the other hi-fi produced songs on this outing. And for the most part this is what you get, straight ahead thrash / speed metal that is a joyride down memory lane.
However, as tight and well played as the majority of these songs are, the fact that most sound so similar makes it tough, at times, to differentiate between them. True there are moments in every track — high velocity solos and inhuman drumming — that will literally make jaws drop. But these moments are not enough to keep the inevitable repetitiveness at bay.
The band redeems themselves heavily on the duo of closing tracks. “Praise of the Firehead” is the power ballad surprise no one will see coming. Think Testament’s “The Ballad” with more acoustic guitar, a slight lean towards the epicness of power metal, and high pitched guitar solos that nod to hair metal. Surprised? Thought so. Rounding things out is the melodic bent to “Dim Carcosa”. Thrash is still the foundation here but melodic death metal takes the spotlight. The vocals drop a few octaves into growling territory and gang vocals lend a brutish hardcore feel. The closing minutes are some of the finest on the album — tightly packed riffs, huge solo work, and possibly the best percussion of the band’s career all very easily and handily win the album’s highlight spot.
While Ad Mortem Festinamus isn’t anything new or wholly original by any means, it is a thrill ride for anyone pining for that early Bay Area sound. Even though the album falls into a repetitive trap at times, Anger As Art’s unyielding thrash attack as well as the out-of-nowhere surprises along the way keeps the entertainment value high. And really at the end of the day an entertaining and fun album can sometimes be the best medicine.