Review by Rick Ossian
The stalwart thrashers from New York City are back for their 11th LP, and their first since 2011’s Worship Music. Founded way back in 1981, you will hear that they are still in fine form on this latest recording. The fellows that we have come to know and love are still here, and they are Joey Belladonna on vocals, Frank Bello on bass, Charlie Benante on drums, and Scott Ian and Jon Donais on guitars. They have brewed up an excellent set of tracks here, so let’s get straight to business and see what’s in store for us!
The obligatory intro track, Impaled, is all drum rolls and violins; it sounds more like a classical procession than heavy metal, and the crowd cheers at the end – someone must have lost their head! Track Number Two is You Gotta Believe, a punchy little number that sounds like they mean business. The riffs are tough and heavy, and there is also some shifting and interplay of leads. Some pretty sweet stuff, too, with a solo (2:20) as well. Joey sounds like a man possessed, as he does on the bulk of the tunes here.
Monster at the End comes screaming out of the gates at us with guitars and vocals blazing. The riffs are chugging and uptempo. If I’m not mistaking, there are twin leads going on (2:45) in the mix, and some serious shredding it is, too!
The title track is up next, and features an interesting vocal intro with some heavy duty instrumental work going on as well. The lead guitar bit (3:25) is sweet, pretty shredding, melodic and almost Satriani-style. Some even heavier shredding occurs at the 4:15 mark.
Breathing Lightning is a bit different from the others, and a bit longer. It features one of those spooky intros that we all love to hate, with strumming guitars and distant drums. All of a sudden, we are slammed with an uptempo beat and chugging riffs – I found myself tapping my toes and banging my head, which is always nice! One shred later (4:15 ) and this may be another twin lead burst. Again, Joey sounds like he is a raving banshee. The brief interlude that follows, Breathing Out, may be just that – a short breather before we move on to the next slam-fest!
Suzerain finds us indeed back to the slamming that was ever prevalent before. It is more of a majestic slam, if you will, and the vocals sear straight into your brain. Some super swift chugging going on here, as the tempo is WAY up, as it often is with these blokes. Joey bellows “Nothing is over!” several times during the lyrical sections, and there is some serious shredding again – twice, this time, once at 2:40 and again at 3:15. “What comes after me?” muses Joey, and another track is in the can.
Evil Twin, for lack of a better description, is a fucking Riff City overload! The super speed tempo is WAY up there, and the man at the mike sounds like he is taking his last chance at vocalizing. Indeed, one notices the urgency of the proceedings all the way through the recording, save for the brief interlude(s).
Blood Eagle Wings is actually a bit more on the heavy blues/proggy thrash side of things – is there such a side? I say that there is. There is some shifting of tempo going on, and some lead guitar bits (3:20, 4:00, and briefly at 5:40). At the six-and-a-half minute mark we hear some mellow strumming that sort of calms things down. At almost 8 minutes in length, this is the single longest track on board here.
Defend Avenge is a bit of a showcase for some serious riffing, both on guitar and bass (go Frankie!), and is even heavier than its predecessors – if that’s possible! There are, again, a couple of spotlights on the leads (3:25 and 5:00), and the slamming riffs at the close are really good.
All of Them Thieves is another heavy, uptempo slammer. Lyrically, also: “I will destroy everything/I will tear your world apart”. There is a slamming shift at 2:45, then a brief psych passage, of all things. At 3:25, there is some superb shredding (twice!), and a bit of echo FX with the vocals on the title (nice touch, Joey!). There is also a cool fadeout at the close.
This Battle Chose Us features, among other things, more slamming. MORE uptempo chugging. More impressive bass guitar work. MORE possessed vocals. Some very infectious grooves, even! Guitar solos pop up at 3 minutes in, then again at three-and-a-half. Some speedy shredding, certainly.
Zero Tolerance is the inevitable closer, but it is also the thirteenth track, so by no means are we being slighted, dear reader. In fact, Joey says ‘motherfucker‘ twice in this track. There is, again, some killer bass licks from Frank. and some seriously swift shredding of guitars, as usual. The guitar solo at 2:55 is particularly impressive.
Well, there you have it. It’s a shame we had to wait for 5 years, but in my opinion, it was well worth the wait!