Into the Pit – Best of Q2

Good day to you all, fellow thrashers! Have you missed me? I’ve certainly missed all of you. However, there are only so many topics to discuss with thrash metal these days still. That being said, we are getting a lot of what I would call solid gold releases. This quarter presented us with a fantastic list of bands across the thrash spectrum. We had incredible releases from crossover, blackened thrash, an old school legend, and even a thrash/power metal crossover! Truly it is a good time to be a thrash fan, and I personally only see it getting better in future months, quarters, and years. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed!

Before we jump into the great records of the quarter, let’s all pause for a moment to think on thrash’s resident weirdo-in-chief Dave Mustaine. We were all disheartened by the Megadeth frontman’s recent diagnosis of throat cancer, but Dave seems pretty publicly upbeat and thankful for any support we can all give him. I’ll be very honest here and say the main reason I started Into the Pit was to write a long piece about why Dave is kind of an out-there dude. I still plan on writing that piece, but we all know that Mustaine has had a fairly rocky life. He has faced a lot of challenges throughout his time on this planet, and he’s somehow managed to pull himself together and get past it all as best he can. Let’s all keep him in our thoughts and do what Dave would like us to: rock out really hard to some super awesome thrash.

Pick of the Quarter: Lowest CreatureSacrilegious Pain

Nothing gets the rage out like a metal-heavy crossover thrash record. There’s an aggression and energy to it that no other subgenres can match. Lowest Creature from Sweden is the latest band to take up that mantle. Fans of Power Trip will see a lot of parallels between the two groups with their razor-sharp riffs and not at all subtle social commentary.

From the get-go, Sacrilegious Pain is ready for the slam. When you start the record, there’s a little introduction before a pit literally forms around you. The slam is nearly immediate and very intense. I’d say you’d want to sit down for this one, but you won’t. You’ll need to get to your nearest basement music venue and get all your aggression out. This record is an expression of that kind of aggression though particularly aimed at religious figures who seem more interested in oppression than salvation.

Just listen to the title track. The Power Trip reference becomes immediately apparent. The difference being that Lowest Creature has a more focused sound. It’s primarily about the energy they create without as much of Power Trip’s reverbed size. Sharp distortion and tight rhythms rule the day here. That singular focus is what makes this record so powerful. Bands always want to sound like well-oiled machines. It’s paramount to a good band to have that kind of singular dynamic. But with Lowest Creature, we’re talking about the difference between a steampunk robot and a life decoy. It’s got the coordination of a single organism while every other band just sounds like a discombobulated group of people. Get ready to shred, y’all.

Pete Williams

KetzerCloud Collider

The best bands can forge a sound that sounds like nobody but themselves. They can blend so many things that it’s often difficult to pull apart. Ketzer has an incredible mix of ideas from black, thrash, and prog that you can only speculate about where there is distinctness about any single one of their influences. I don’t think you can because they have an amazing ability to write songs both technically baffling and melodically pleasing. Cloud Collider is the definition of “ear candy” to me.

You really do hear a little bit of everything from Ketzer from both the thrash and blackened perspectives. Harsh blackened vocals combine with traditional thrash riffing. Crossover thrash-style fast chugging is presented in the black metal tremolo style. Somehow, they are also turn atmospheric sections into thrash-ified black. I’m not sure how they do it, and it gets difficult to put into words just the feelings you get from hearing Cloud Collider. But anything you’d want to hear as a fan of either or both is there.

“No Stories Left” introduces you with chaotic riffing leading to some of the scratchiest black vocals I’ve ever heard. It gives the entire track a feeling of quickly-approaching impending doom. The following bridge section gives the track an excellent old school beat with a little rhythmic flair. It also mixes up the songwriting with some intellectually pleasing turns. It’s a very mature track on an equally grown-up record. The band has developed their own unique voice that will take them far. Can’t wait for more.

-PW

AllagashCryptic Visions

Allagash take modern power metal melodies and combining them with classic NWOBHM and thrash metal sensibilities. Although the three styles might not appear all that far apart on paper it’s a curious blend and one the band have seemingly perfected on their second full-length, Cryptic Visions.

The Canadians are a concept act centered around the supposed 1976 Allagash alien abductions. However, you needn’t keep track of extraterrestrial affairs in order to indulge in the sheer power of the riffitude they provide. Early standout “Evil Intent,” for example, is epic in scope, but grounded in an earthly groove that hits even harder following the frantic opening of “Beware the Light” (which, yes, samples the embarrassing Donald Trump “fire and fury” speech, although it appears to be in service of a warning about nuclear annihilation rather than deployed in the direction of extra-terrestrial invaders as “illegal-aliens” (á la Men In Black: International), so I’m choosing let it go for now).

Although the thrash element is perhaps the least utilized out of their three ingredients, it’s the element that gives the record its extra punch—elevating it above the band’s previous work as well previously similar retro-styled acts. Iron Maiden-harmonies abound, but it’s the Kill ‘Em All-style assault of “Piracy Invaders” and the album’s opening salvo that leave the biggest impression. Fourteen-minute closer “Eagle Lake” even recalls the epic black metal of later-period Immortal in its earliest moments—before it goes full power metal odyssey.

Yet, while Cryptic Visions might be a strange concoction, it’s one that’s sure to draw in listeners from different spectrums, rather than isolate them in their skepticism. You might even say it’s… (ahem) out of this world.

-Josh Bulleid

Death AngelHumanicide

Do you also miss the heyday of 80s thrash metal? Do you feel like you don’t get those records from the bands of that era anymore? Would you like to? Because you need Death Angel’s latest record, Humanicide. It’s got that old school feeling you all crave with some modern sensibilities to it. It has that razor-edge feel that makes it pretty timeless and just a straight up fun record to listen to. It really does have it all.

Death Angel is unique among the Bay Area thrash bands since the majority of their material is in the 20th century. Yet they were also a big name in the late 80s and helped establish the burgeoning sound. Because of this unique circumstance, they get to claim their roots while also sounding fresh. If you’re a band, this is a sweet spot to live in. You have the reputation you’d want and can build off of it with impressive releases.

Humanicide definitely falls in that category. Death Angel continues to outdo themselves with these releases and this one takes the cake. Each track is absolutely stuffed with full throttle thrash metal. The guitar work on here is most impressive as Ted Aguilar and Rob Cavestany weave together impressive riffs, chugging chords, and mind-bending soloing work. The whole thing is so great that it’s pretty difficult to pick a single standout track. It spans the gamut of thrash sounds, and each one is done with an incredible precision and reverence to the sound. Old school thrashers are more than welcome still and should get on Humanicide immediately.

-PW

PaladinAscension

Power metal is not for everybody. You could be a huge fan of the most dissonant black metal and the densest grindcore and get turned off by power metal. But it turns out if you try to mix power metal with other things, it becomes far more palatable to a much wider audience. Thank you, Paladin, for combing power metal with thrash and opening my eyes to an entire world I’ve been missing. Ascension is the rare widely acceptable power metal record that can bring in fans of (I think) just about anything in the metal side of life.

There is a ton of stuff to pull out about Ascension. It has those fun moments of over the top high drama in the vocals, and there’s a lot of really high production values to beef it up. All of the songs are really designed to accentuate those stylings. However, what really stands out the most is just how tight everything is. Rhythms are rigidly defined and maintained, but everyone in the band is still allowed to have their fun while coloring inside the lines. The band teeters in the fun zone where everything is dramatically melodic while also being impressively technical. All the riffs and solo work is truly awe-inspiring to hear and really makes the record.

The whole tone of the record is present in the opening lick of “Awakening”. The dramatic solo guitar lick kicks off the high metal drama of Ascension, drawing you up into that place you need to be the hear songs about great warriors achieving heroic deeds in fantasy lands. You’re immediately locked in and ready for the thrash-style riffing off quickly chugging power chords and breakneck tempos. You really can’t emphasize how tight the track is and just have to hear how well these guys keep the pace. Wait until you hear their twin guitar attacks at that speed. Ascension will blow your mind.

-PW

XentrixBury the Pain

And now for some old school thrash from a lesser known group! Xentrix has been making more technical old school thrash since the mid-80s and have been off and on in the scene ever since. This year brought us Bury the Pain, a brilliant example of how fun this kind of darker thrash sound can be. It’s an odd sentence to say the least, but it is nonetheless true. Some of these riffs and rhythms just tickle your brain and beg for more. And if you’re not immediately drawn in by the underground aesthetic of the album cover, I’m not sure I can really help you. Seek professional help.

Bury the Pain combines the best of American and European thrash. It has a pretty firm grounding in the American attitude while also showing off its European roots with the melodic flairs. There are moments of that razor-edged brutality necessary for modern angry thrash that get built up by the Eurothrash stylings. It’s a joy to hear the two variations meeting like this as it shows a strong grounding in both traditions while you’re forging your own path.

“Bleeding Out” shows off all these flairs. A nice thrash groove introduces the track with moments of harmonized riffing. An American thrash beat really drives the song forward with the subtlety of a runaway train. They also mix up the rhythms throughout the track so you’re always focused on a new aspect of the track. It really comes together for the guitar solo where the acrobatics come in. It’s a pretty classic thrash track on a record that’s effectively a love letter to the genre.

-PW

Quick Picks

InculterFatal Visions

WidowerCataclysmic Sorcery

PossessedRevelations of Oblivion

HellripperBlack Arts & Alchemy

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