Changing style can often be a difficult transition to make. Bands can sometimes get away with it if they get in early enough in their career, before they’ve established their trademark sound (see: Darkthrone, Paradise Lost). Later-day transitions, however, can be much harder for fans to stomach, especially if they take place all in one go, and often run the risk of derailing a lot of the good will a band had previously built up (see: Opeth, Morbid Angel). One way of avoiding the whole debacle, is to simply start another band, which is exactly what the members of Long Island hardcore crew This Is Hell did back in 2013, when they decided to try their hand at thrash metal.
Enter Extinction A.D. who hit the scene with their promising EP Plague Prophecy the year after, before dropping their outstanding full-length debut, Faithkiller, in 2015. That album certainly didn’t reinvent any wheels, but it was a surprisingly vital release from a band who had forged their career on the other side of the crossover divide, and remains one of the best traditional examples of twenty-first century thrash metal to this day (well I think so anyway). For a while there—and with the intervention of a new This Is Hell outing in 2016—it seemed like Extinction A.D. may have been a “one-and-done.” Fear not, however, for the band are back with their second full-length, Decimation Treaty, which easily outclasses the band’s previous material and also sees the offshoot really coming into their own.
Faithkiller was a pleasant surprise but Decimation Treaty proves Extinction A.D. are the real deal. The album is an improvement in every way over its already formidable predecessor. The riffs are chunkier, the leads are tighter, the songwriting is catchier, the production feels fuller and the presentation seems more realized. The band also has more of its own individual identity this time around.The time between releases has seen bassist Pieter van den Berg has step down from his original outfit, as well as the replacement—on the Extinction A.D. front—of current This Is Hell guitarist Christian Beale with newcomer Ian Cimaglia, which blurs the lines between the two acts somewhat. Furthermore, the approach taken on this sophomore effort is far more in line with a traditional thrash aesthetic than their debut. The crossover elements are still there, but they appear more sparingly while, for the most part, there is more of an emphasis on distinctly metal lead work and bay-area-style riffing.
It would have stood out as a notable curiosity, but Faithkiller could have fit very comfortably into the This Is Hell back catalogue, especially given the precedent of 2011’s Black Mass and the Enforcer EP (2013). Decimation Treaty, on the other hand, feels very much like it belongs to a separate body of work—even more so, in light of This Is Hell’s return to a more distinctly hardcore aesthetic on Bastards Still Remain (2016). Where as Extinction A.D.’s flirted more readily with the grey area of “crossover” thrash, this record owes far more to a traditionally metal template. “In The Wake of Uprising” starts off with a distinctly Slayer-esque flurry before settling into something more off-kilter in the vein of mid-period Megadeth or modern Warbringer, while “Age of Revenge” sounds like Municipal Waste channeled through Anthrax at their roughest. Likewise, while they’re far too frantic and flat out to draw any lasting parallels to Metallica, there’s plenty of moments throughout the record where they settle into a rousing, mid-paced groove that sounds like it’s been ripped directly from the phase space between Kill ’em All and Ride the Lightning.
This Is Hell are a fine hardcore band, but they’re an even better thrash metal one. In true thrash fashion, their new record ends with a seven-and-a-half-minute instrumental title track that whose fading outro only leaves you longing to start the assault all over again. It’s touches like this that show you the band know exactly what they’re doing, and if they can keep this level of quality up it won’t be long before they eclipse their origins entirely. It’s still early days, but, with Decimation Treaty, Extinction A.D. have set the bar incredibly high for thrash metal in 2018.
Decimation Treaty is out now via Good Fight Music.