Thrash and hardcore seemed to have this huge crossover a few years ago with Iron Reagan, Municipal Waste et al all dishing out dive-bombing, riff-fueled batterings, album after album; music to the ears of patched denim jackets across the world. A lot of the fallout from this resurgence, unfortunately, ended up getting lost in page after page of poorly recorded, paper thin “thrash”, lost in the relevant tags of Bandcamp. This can be said any time that a throwback sound becomes popular again (we’re looking at you, metalcore) but thankfully, there are diamonds in the rough and today’s thrashy, hardcore spitball is one of them. Judgement do the big riffs, big dives, and big pits, but with more than a hint of modern menace to it.
A quick look at the artwork for Iron Rule, Judgement’s debut release outside of a sharp demo and a ripping single (“Rat King”, check it out after) should give anyone with a base knowledge of pinched harmonics and fret melting riffs (and solos, god, the solos) a good idea of what to expect. A scene-setting intro track opens the door to a dive bar rife with lovingly shampooed long hair windmills, like a hybrid air conditioning system built to combat the heat generated by the driving riffs and squeals on “Pain”. If you were expecting Slayer instead of Madball, sorry, ‘cuz the swing and spit of the hardcore charged “Deathshed” definitely rings closer to home for East Coast push-pitters than Bay Area speed. With all the force of a gang vocal – without the gang aspect – the goofy but sentimental declaration of “time’s up, die or quit” during the key changing, beer can crushing final third of “Punishment” is as genuine as the riffs are wholesome and moreish, if you dig thick, chunky chugs and bullying tom-tom breaks. You should.
The crossover appeal isn’t lost, even with the postured up presence of hardcore looming threateningly throughout Iron Rule. When the lead guitar rips into action, nostalgia gets to breathe for a while, accompanied by some deviant divebombing and Scott Ian approved (probably) riffs shifting between heyday thrash metal and modern metallic hardcore – a genre that borrows more from thrash than I think anyone cares to admit. Much of the appeal of thrash metal to younger fans is that it feels carefree and, in more cases than not, feels like an opportunity to let their long hair down and fly freely. It’s nigh on impossible to imagine NOT having fun at a Judgement show – whether you’re on your first beer of the night or on the verge of getting a little bit sick on yourself. Hell, if you’re sober you get to unironically high-five all the drunkards falling out of the circle pit. The music is sharp and the message is vicious, but Iron Rule definitely feels like it was written between friends, for the purpose of other sweaty moshers making new friends. Wholesome, like I already said.
Whether you need to kick off your shoes after a hard day of work or need something to get the juices flowing before a game day, Judgement have the riffs and the vibes to supplement your daily intake of hold music, coworkers’ loud chewing, and ambient noise from either your commute or the mayhem around you at home. It definitely helps that their first full foray into recording sounds as crisp and cutting as any of the best thrash/metallic hardcore going. Dust off your denims, it’s time for a return to the pit. You can snag a copy now on Bandcamp.