In Dante’s Inferno, the second circle begins the proper punishment of Hell, a place where “no thing gleams.” It is reserved for those overcome with Lust, where carnal appetites hold sway over reason. In Nine Circles, it’s where we do shorter reviews of new albums that share a common theme.
Was it really more than 10 years ago everyone started proclaiming thrash was back? When Municipal Waste blasted out with Hazardous Mutation ¹ (which you can argue is more Crossover than Thrash ²) and unleashed a glut of Exodus and Testament clones, most of which weren’t old enough to remember the dirt glory that was the 80s? I admit I may have reinforced some of the more questionable aspects of the movement (though I’ll never apologize for Toxic Holocaust and S.S.S.) but the reality is the genre never really went away — just ask Overkill. And despite being claimed “dead” by a number of online sites and magazines look across the border and things look just fine, particularly when you look at two great releases coming out this week from Maligner and Obscure Evil.
Maligner’s Demon is either their debut demo or EP depending on which label you’re looking at, but there’s no argument regarding the sound: it’s a killer mix of death/thrash with an incredible production that sits right at home with the best of progenitors like Sadus, Kreator and Infernal Majesty. Based out of Sweden by way of Latin America, the band pummels with precision and speed without sounding remotely processed or digitized. This is brutal, hammer to the skull thrash, solos and whammy tricks a-plenty mixed in with vicious vocals poured directly into your brain.
Opening with the sound of war, “The Die is Cast” has a furious propulsive march, slipping in and out of double-time, crushing breakdowns and pinch harmonics. “Juggernaut” leads with a rumbling bass and falls into that perfect head-banging tempo that signals the need for a neck brace soon. The riff that opens “Immortalized” might be my favorite, just low and simple but crowning with menace. And at less than 20 minutes Demon leaves you sweaty and exhausted and wanting more than just the taste of blood Maligner provide.
Nine Circles reviewed the Midnight Forces demo from Peru’s Obscure Evil earlier this year, and nailed the tone the band achieves: dark, dirty thrash via Sarcófago and early Venom with room for some serious NWOBHM. I’d throw early, pre-Beneath the Remains Sepultura in there as well: new EP Void Fumes is murky, devilish blackened thrash that evokes the band’s name with a swampy production where dissonant sounds rise out of the depths to pierce your charitable Christian soul. Go to the About section on the band’s Facebook page and listed as their interests are Abstractionism, Satanism, and Nihilism. I’d say that’s about right judging by their first track, “Unevenly Crafted Shapes.”
“Darkness Descends Upon the Eternal Flame of Doom” is a mouthful of a title, but fortunately the song itself is much easier to digest, drums sounding as if they were recorded in a cavern spilling into a buzzing guitar riff that turns in on itself until it evolves into a nasty little NWOBHM lick courtesy of guitarist Naked Whipper, which I only mention so I have the opportunity to write the words “Naked Whipper.” The instrumental keeps moving back and forth between classic dark NWOBHM riffs and something altogether darker. “Black Metal Storm” has a majestic stomp that crushes everything around it, a swirling vortex that constantly shifts in mood, held together by the anguished vocals. Every song has a consistent intensity (and that intensity is set to 11) but Obscure Void isn’t afraid to branch out and jam some pretty diverse styles throughout Void Fumes, and the fact that it all holds together as well as it does speaks volumes to their potential.
Is Thrash dead? Does it matter when you have bands like Maligner and Obscure Evil are willing to dig up the corpse and reanimate it in a way that’s a blast to listen to? If nothing else these two releases should remind you that even though we’re approaching the final month of the year — a ridiculously shitty one at that — there’s still some amazing music coming out that’s worth your time and attention.
¹ Yeah, I know Waste ‘Em All came out almost two years earlier than Hazardous Mutation. No one cared until Hazardous Mutation, okay?
² And I’m sure folks are doing just that somewhere on the Internet.