Envenomed have been positioned as the next big thing in Australian thrash metal for a while now. The Melbourne band offer a brighter and more melodic alternative to their often more extreme and aggressive (read: Slayer-influenced) brethren. They’ve remained an entertaining live staple within the Melbourne scene since their inception. Their second LP, The Walking Shred, has been a long time coming, however, and while largely an improvement over past material, longtime listeners may be left wondering whether such developments are proportional to the delay.
The Walking Shred is a much more accomplished record than Envenomed’s 2014 debut, Evil Unseen. The riffs are sharper, songs are tighter and everything, overall, just sounds better. Of particular improvement are mainman Anthony Mavrikis’s vocals, which sound much richer and more refined than on previous releases, and often recall Meshiaak‘s Daniel Camilleri (ex-4Arm) in his more melodic moments. Yet, as with their debut, the album never quite seems to come together as a whole.
Envenomed often appear to avoid playing to their strengths. For all their qualitative increases Mavrikis’s vocals still don’t always seem best fitted to their surrounds and their incessant double-tracking often does more to muddle them than it does to reinforce. There’s also an overall lack of edge to their sound. The band may set themselves apart by being a less-aggressive offering, but their lack of grit means that, often, many of their riffs wind up hitting with less than full force. One of the biggest disappointments of The Walking Shred is the lack of carry-over from 2016’s Reckoning EP, which experimented with harsher, more extreme textures and which still constitutes the band’s strongest material to date. Before this album, Envenomed’s sound came across like a combination of Testament‘s hefty-yet-melodic take on thrash metal, combined with Trivium‘s traditional heavy metal sensibilities. Now, it appears that the Testament has been almost completely eradicated in favour of chasing further heavy metal melodiscisms, and the band’s sound is less well-balanced and compelling for it.
There’s still a lot to recommend The Walking Shred. “Rebellion” is a solid musical offering that never quite seems to gel with Mavrikis’s vocals, and “Aware” is another early highlight that blends crunchy, staccato rhythms with a catchy sing-along chorus to great success—even if Mavrikis’s vocals aren’t quite strong enough to push it where it needs to go. The heaviness picks up somewhat toward the back of the album, with the back-to-back pairing of “The Haunting” and “All that Remains” constitutes the record’s most consistent moment(s)—especially coming, as they do, after two of the album’s lightest and most bloated in “Fate Closes the Door” and “Through the Cold”. “Sacrifice” is another solid entry to add to that run, even if it lacks the scope of its two immediate predecessors. Otherwise, however, The Walking Shred continues to suffer from what I call “early-Trivium syndrome”, which is to say that each song opens with an undeniably enticing riff, but quickly looses its lustre once the “song part” itself kicks in.
Much of The Walking Shred also blurs together. Although two tracks shorter than the overstuffed Evil Unseen, at twelve tracks The Walking Shred still feels overburdened, and its impact could perhaps have been considerably increased by cutting out some of the filler, which mostly congregates around the album’s middle. The fact that the record’s final offerings are essentially novelty bonus tracks doesn’t help matters much. Envenomed’s 2016 cover of Skyhooks‘ “Horror Movie” put a amusing spin on the Australian rock n’ roll classic—offering a knowing nod to their heritage and becoming a fun staple of their live show in the process. Conversely, the cover of Lenny Kravitz‘s “Are You Gonna’ Go My Way”, presented here feels cynical and without purpose, and lacks the compelling swagger of the original. “Metal United”, which closes the album, is the kind of fist-pumping heavy metal anthem that would have perhaps worked well in the hands of guitarist Brendan Farrugia’s old act, Elm Street, but which Envenomed lack the requisite tongue-in-cheek to pull off. (See also, the album’s horrendous cover art, which, if you’re going for an unrefined high-school aesthetic, then at least go all the way.)
The Walking Shred is a (lurching, lumbering) step forward for Envenomed, but it remains far from the finished product. The band’s reverent irreverance is a large part of their charm, but their point of view still lacks clear definition and their overall packages better defined (ooer!). This review ended up being far more negative that I’d intended going into it, and I still think the record is well worth checking out for the thrash inclined. Although it appears to be only a small step along the way to something greater, The Walking Shred remains a fun listen and there’s plenty of individual moments and compositions peppered throughout, even if they never completely coalesce.
The Walking Shred is out now through El Puerto Records.