Review by Rick Ossian
The boys from the Bay Area of San Francisco, California are back at it again! After 30 years of what could only be unimaginable adversity (not to mention the tragedy of losing their original vocalist, Paul Baloff), they can still jam with the best of them. According to their bio, they are “the original architects of the thrash scene” (Messrs Hetfield, Ulrich, Araya, King and Mustaine may have something to say about that! – Ed). This album is their 10th full-length recording of new material. The guys in the band are Steve “Zetro” Souza on vocals, Gary Holt on guitar (and primary songwriter), Lee Altus also on guitar, Jack Gibson on bass and Tom Hunting on drums. This latest recording from these stalwart denizens of the Thrash world is clearly a stroke of genius, especially if this is the type of Metal that you prefer!
First up is Black 13, one of six tracks that clock in at over six minutes. It is such a joy to these ears to hear a heavy metal thrash band stretch out like this. It does my heart well, and, as you will see/hear, it will do yours wonders as well. Our first track takes us into marching metal territory, after a brief but bad-ass science fiction intro. Things really get going at about the 1:25 mark, and at two minutes in the vocals make a triumphant return. At 4:20 there is an instrumental breakdown, and at 4:40 guitars shred like there’s no tomorrow until the 5:30 mark! Some pretty exciting stuff right from the start, then!
On the title track, there is more thrashing heavy duty stuff, with no pretentious intro to bog us down, and everybody involved is working at least double or triple time, it seems. It is about half the length of the bulk of tracks on offer here, so short but sweet! Excellent work, lads!
Collateral Damage sounds like it would be difficult to play. I’ve heard musicians discuss the relative merits of stop-time arrangements and such, and I’ve heard many intricate passages (being a Prog aficionado), but as I mentioned it before, it’s nice to hear a heavier band do these kinds of things. Refreshing, you might say. More Heavy Metal and/or Thrash outfits should follow Exodus’ example. The drummer is certainly busy here, as are the rest of the chaps. I thought the intro was noteworthy, as well as the lead guitar solo at the 3:30 mark.
Salt the Wound is another of the shorter tunes here, which is interesting because it’s four and a half minutes long! Here we have one of those infectious rhythms that these cats often turn up with, a very high-octane tune indeed! There is a very heavy instrumental breakdown happening at about the two minute mark, and some serious shredding (2:25) going on also. At about the 3:30 mark things kick back in and before you know it this one is over!
Body Harvest is a full-on, balls-out jam. The main riff is just lovely. There is also a heavy guitar and drum intro included, as well a couple of notable guitar solos at 3 minutes in and at 3:50. Both are soaring, landscape solos, if you will. At 4:45 they get back to the riffing, very heavy and lightning speed to boot. At 5:20 the vocals return, and even though it is six-and-a-half minutes on at the end, you still want them to keep going! A sign of a sure bullseye!
Btk is another mega-monster lengthwise, but at just shy of 7 minutes, you would think there are some boring, drawn-out passages, right? Not so here, my friends! There is the obligatory opening, only this time a cool guitar/drum pairing starts things out. At first I thought it would be an instrumental, but I was fooled again there as well! Dig the main rhythm riff (I thought it was rather Sabbath-y). They could just jam like this all day long and I would be just fine! This time (4:30) the lead guitar solo takes on sort of a musical journey, if you will. A lesson in rhythm, counterpoint and lead, perhaps? At 5:30 there is what could only be described as the ‘horror’ section, and then a sort of pedestrian jam-out at the close finishes off another lengthy, powerful number.
Wrapped In the Arms of Rage should win cool points for its title alone, but that isn’t all that’s going on here. Hate and anger, yes, of course – that’s what these blokes do! However, there is also time for melody, a shredding opening, a trip-hammer drum delivery. I also love the main rhythm riff, the guitar solo (2:50), and when they kick back in (3:30). This is pedal-to-the-metal full-on ferocious rock from beginning to end!
My Last Nerve is yet another six-minute plus behemoth, and shows no signs of letting up in the sonic stratosphere. This is pure Metal, folks. An instrumental breakdown (3:05) of sorts and a LONG, shredding solo (3:33) are the main features, but things slam back in between 4:30 and 4:45. The lead close (5:30) at the outro is creepy but cool. Nicely done, fellas.
Numb features some tasty bass fills, but also lyrically was the number that struck me the hardest. There is a lot going on here, particularly the shouts of “SO FUCKING NUMB” towards the end, not to mention “Death and disorder/The tools of our trade”, “I’m sick of what I’ve become”, “desensitized and ruthless”, and my favoUrite coupling, “Compassion/Dedicated/So disassociated”. As I said, a LOT going on lyrically. They shift gears here a couple of times, and I particularly dug the vocal on “I don’t care/I don’t give a shit/I don’t give a fuck”.
Honour Killings features more trip-hammer drumming (subtlety is not in Tom’s repertoire it would seem), seriously riffing guitars, and guttural vocal delivery (“Buried alive/Decapitated”). We are balls-out jamming again on this number, which is just fine with me. At 1:50 there is another of the instrumental breakdowns. They repeat this pattern at the 3-minute mark, and shift into yet another one at 4 minutes in. Whew! Guitars shred again at 4:15, and then the main riff kicks back in at 4:50, then, before you know what hit you, another tune has come and gone. Sad but true.
Closing number Food For the Worms is clearly a case of saving the best for last. What a feast we have here, with a very cool, riffy intro, some extremely busy drums, more of the instrumental breaking down mentioned above, more of the monster vocals (“insect infestation”), and, at the end, of all things, a faded-out, Hendrix-style solo with faint police sirens in the distance…what the hell? That bit goes to the end of the tune, and once again we have to face the facts. This one is over. Of course, we could always listen to it again! Top marks!