There are few things in life as satisfying as a solid thrash record. Let’s put it up there with an ice cold glass of water after a game of backyard football, and equally refreshing. This is mostly due to the fact that, frankly, thrash is well past its glory days. Sure, bands like Trials (WHY DID YOU LEAVE US?! WHY?!), Weaponizer, Vektor, Power Trip and Iron Reagan have each brought us their own hybrid versions of thrash greatness over the past few years, but genuinely excellent thrash records are harder to come by than they used to be. Thankfully, fans of the subgenre have Bangladesh’s Exalter to kick off the year with some gnarly, fast, in-your-face thrash goodness that starts the new year on a very high note. Persecution Automated is an exciting sophomore release that points to very good things to come for this young band, and indicates anew the vitality of a burgeoning metal scene oceans away from the birthplace of thrash.
The direct, on-the-nose presentation of thrash metal contained within this record is reminiscent of early-Exodus or Sodom, using punchy guitars, punky drums, and sheer speed to tell its story rather than instrumental pyrotechnics. That isn’t to suggest that the performances on the record are incompetent. Far from it. This is a solidly performed record in every metric. Rather, it’s to highlight the painstaking care the band exhibits in creating a sound that heralds back to the best days of thrash. Persecution Automated is nothing more or less than a fantastic example of traditional thrash done right, and it’s nonstop fantastic from start to finish.
The album opens with two instrumental pieces, the first being incredibly short and dealing almost exclusively in those electronic atmospherics found at the opening of many a metal record. It’s one of the only tracks here that the record could do without, and I’ll never quite understand the impetus behind “Intro” tracks in metal. The second, “Holocaust Ahead” introduces the listener to a catchy riff that is, in only a few moments, an excellent example of what we are about to receive throughout the duration of the record. It’s a skull-punching right hook that lands squarely in the early 90s thrash metal feels, and it brings the pain in such a fantastically simple way. As a continuation of the sonic beating just delivered, “Reign of the Mafia State” comes out of the gate with a pressing need for an unfriendly bout of fisticuffs. The driving, chugging propulsion of the guitars, the equal ferocity of the drums, and the introduction of the vocals (which here feel like a mix of the aforementioned Trials and perhaps some of the punkish edge of Black Breath) all combine to create one of the most insanely enjoyable thrash tracks I have heard in a good while. There are no missteps or mistakes here. The band accomplish everything they set out to do exceptionally well, and this theme holds true for the majority of the record.
Outside that throwaway intro, the rest of this record is straight-up thrash goodness. “World Under Curfew” incorporates a nice dose of melody to the warp-speed proceedings, in addition to adding a nice punk punch in the drum work. Subsequent track “The Dreaded End” gives us an all-out riff fest that is as satisfying as you are likely to hear in a thrash record this year, while “Slaughter Cleanse Repeat” continues these things with like conviction and extremity, with a few passages eschewing vocals entirely to give the guitar center stage, creating some truly special headbangable moments. As you can probably tell by now, this record doesn’t deviate a whole lot from its stated formula. “Incarceration” and “Grip of Fear” offer more of the same bone-crunching goodness as delivered in the tracks before. But this uniformity works so well here that there is little that the band could have added to their formula here that would have improved it. This is as traditional as modern thrash gets, and Exalter do it so well that it’s practically impossible not to get swept up in its manic energy.
Originality gets harped on a lot in reviews of modern metal records as an inherent value. I implicate myself in this statement as chief among happy sinners in this regard. But it is immensely refreshing to spend time with a record that has no intention of reinventing or subverting the wheel. This is a talented band that knows exactly what it wants to do, and accomplishes this mission in spades. This is prototypical thrash at a very high level, and isn’t trying to be anything more. The riffs are fantastic, the performances are solid, and the energy is unreal. A great way to kick-off the new year for thrash fans.
Persecution Automated was released on 12/28/2017 through Transcending Obscurity Records, and is available for purchase on the band’s Bandcamp page.