It’s a new year so let’s start a new trend. For many years running, death metal and doom and its subsidiaries have had standout releases. So many of them that pretty much every consecutive year, we’re saying the year belonged to death metal. Doom doesn’t get quite the same bona fides but we all know that doom bands are putting out monster records year after year. Black metal flies under the radar, but that’s kind of their goal anyway and those who search for it find the landmark records. But where’s the thrash? They get the yearly releases, sure, but not in the same glut or with the same praise. Maybe it just needs a kick in the pants to get back to its former glory. With that, I present Violblast’s Theater of Despair.
Spain’s Violblast has been kicking around since 2012 and have released an EP in 2014 and 2016’s full-length Conflict. They create a very controlled and violent form of thrash metal. It’s not quite death metal, but it’s pretty close. It also sounds extremely dark but it’s not quite blackened either. The sound sits in an uncanny valley sort of place where it draws a lot of influences from all over but still forges its own path. Much like Sepultura before them, Violblast has a lot of recognizable sounds but don’t sound like anybody but themselves.
It’s wonderful to hear a band like this. They have seemingly mastered a lot of the signatures of thrash. They have the slower chugging riffs required for great thrash grooves (“New Orphans Elegy”). They play with extremely technical riffs and unusual timing and beats (“Painless”). The guitar work is exactly what you’d want from a thrash metal band. The solos throughout the record will have your jaw dropping from the technical expertise and air-guitaring with the best of them. If you’re a thrash metal fan, there’s a lot to love on this record.
A personal favorite is “Prevail”. This is the kind of riff metal fans crave. The chugging nature of the riff is great for a thrash head, but listen to the pattern of the riff. There’s a lot of starting and stopping to it. It keeps you thinking as it’s going along. The drums really compliment it as they are mimicking and accentuating the riff. This is what makes this band interesting. There is a lot of thought put into every part of these songs. It just leads to a fuller experience.
The intro track, “Trivialization of Murder,” has a similar style but a different expression. The entire composition of the song is pretty mature for a band only on its second full-length record. They’ve discovered how to use the studio to their advantage. Riffs weave in and out of the track, layered onto it in ways to grab your attention without distracting you. Clearly, these guys are very advanced for their group’s age. This is a group of musicians who have embraced the idea of being recording artists. A good artist knows exactly how to use and employ his tools. It’s just another facet of being an artist.
This is the kind of record we need right now. Thrash metal is such an underrated genre despite the fact that there is a few records that get the critical acclaim it deserves. I think Violblast is an example of such a record. It takes that original idea and expands upon it, growing and morphing it into something new. They draw upon ideas from the past and spice things up with their own creations. This kind of record is what we need in 2019. Let’s hope we get more of it.
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Theater of Despair is out January 11th on Hostile Media and is available for preorder on Bandcamp.