Saturday, 1 March 2014

Album Review; Shrapnel - The Virus Conspires

Shrapnel - The Virus Conspires

Track Listing:

1. Kingdom Come
2. Titan
3. Braindead
4. 22
5. The Virus Conspires
6. The Wake
7. Red Terror
8. The Watchers
9. Pseudocommando
10. Poison The Mind
11. All That We Know

Thrash Metal, at this point in time, has been largely dominated by the old guard like Testament, Overkill, Voivod and Death Angel. The Thrash revival bands have been side-lined for the most part. Evile are still going strong and making good records, while Municipal Waste and Skeletonwitch's newest releases seem to have passed by many people unnoticed. I sometimes wonder if this is largely due to the revival bands lacking a degree of excitement at this point. There's an energy required for Thrash Metal that has been lacking in a lot of the newer bands for a little while. Shrapnel, from Norwich, England, released their debut album this month, and it's a great addition to any Thrash fan's record collection.

'Kingdom Come' makes it perfectly clear from the start that this is a band that's out to Thrash your face off. Speed, riffs, gritty vocals and chaotic yet tight song writing is on show, along with a great amount of instrumental prowess that impresses without showing off. The vocal style of Jae Hadley has the force and simplicity of Tom Araya with a throatier edge that is reminiscent of Thrash singers like Mark Osegueda and Steve Souza. The song comes in, sets the tone in just under three minutes and quickly exits.

The second song 'Titan', which showcases more of the same, with some great moments that bring some true grit back to the Thrash Metal sub-genre, including more stellar riffs and some, frankly ridiculous drumming chops. The guitar tone is a noteworthy point; both guitarists, lead player Nathan Sadd and rhythm player Chris Martin clearly take their influences from bands like Slayer, Megadeth, Kreator and even Forbidden, but the tone heard on the album is decidedly modern, rather than sounding retro for the sake of posing. The riffs themselves are anything but simplistic. I'd heard it said about Dave Mustaine that his riffs were as impressive as other guitarists lead playing; the same can be said of Shrapnel's fantastic duo.

'Braindead' is another that doesn't sit about too long and is all the better for it. This is part of what makes 'The Virus Conspires' so compelling and genuine - bluntly put; there's no fucking about. No riff outstays it's welcome, nothing is present in the songs for the sake of it. This record retains the punk inspired spirit that made the original Thrash movement stand out. The instrumental break in the song '22' is another fantastic showcase of what Shrapnel are capable of, while the title track 'The Virus Conspires' brings the sinister feel of darker Thrash bands like Exodus and Dark Angel kicking and screaming into the modern age, showing that Shrapnel is a serious prospect in the genre.

As much as this is a Thrash Metal record, there are hints of other things to be heard on 'The Virus Conspires', little tinges of traditional Heavy Metal and even slight nods to early Death Metal bands, particularly in the fleeting yet effective atmospheric moments. In this respect it's great to see that they're not Thrash-by-numbers. A streak of originality and a clear consideration in regards to the songs are key here. 'The Wake' is probably one of my favourite songs on this record, though to be honest, the whole album is killer! There's a stupendously great riff to be heard at 2mins 39secs into the track.

I'm both sorry for and massively impressed by drummer Simon Jackson as far as this album goes; he never lets up! The reason I say I'm sorry for him is because he'll be going like a freight train for a whole set when Shrapnel play live. Can't be easy, but on the album he makes it sound easy enough in the best way possible. The songs flow smoothly from faster to slower (but never actually slow) tempos, and it's obvious that Simon's prowess behind the kit has something to do with the ease in the flow of the whole record. 'The Watchers' brings blast beats, ever impressive bass-drum kicks and very precise stop-starts.

Right through the rest of the album, there's no reprieve; it's non-stop Thrash Metal brilliance. It's raw, it's new, it's vicious and it brings a whole lot to the Thrash Metal style. At last, Thrash Metal sounds essential again, as it always should. This is one of the best debuts I've heard in a good while, and I cannot wait to hear more from this band, hopefully in the not too distant future. Highly recommended.

Rating: 9.5/10

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