Sometimes you just need an album to kick you in the face and just keep on kicking. Blackened thrash is usually the way to go when you’re in that mood since re-joining those conjoined genres is a pretty good way to get albums that simply go. The mix of those two sub-genres creates unstoppable releases, usually reliant on thrash’s fast pace and black metal’s propensity for the grandiose. Such is the case with Raider‘s Guardian of the Fire, a hefty slab of thrash metal spliced with abrasive black metal vocals. It’s an album with one thing and one thing only on its mind and that’s riffs, screams, and lots of both right until the end. It certainly revolutionize either genre but that’s not what we’re here for, right? We’re here for unadulterated, metal aggression fed intravenously and that’s exactly what we’re going to get.
The first stop is, naturally, the guitars. On Guardian of the Fire, Raider opted for a thick, old-school tone that does a good job of absolutely dominating the mix. This creates the kind of aural assault which works so well for thrash. This is, of course, underscored by prominent bass, calling the shots of the furious gallop that drives most of Raider’s riffs. The composition itself pre-selects aggression and speed above all, doing away with everything that isn’t absolutely necessary to create the kind of breakneck pace that thrash is known for. This is perhaps refined most effectively on “No Sign of the Dawn”; it’s opening riff is pure joy to listen to and the iterations it undergoes during the track channel its violence in convincing ways.
The vocals make up the other half of the equation. These come in two varieties, with the dominant one being the more abrasive and high pitched. That’s where comparisons to other blackened bands come in, like Skeletonwitch. These screams give the rest of the music an extra edge. Facing this type of vocals are deeper, more pronounced tones. Instead of being thrown off of each other, reveling in contrast, the two types of vocals end up supporting each other. Their combined presence is commendable and does a good job of getting each track’s message across. Interestingly enough, the end result reminds us of early Lamb of God of all things, channeling the same kind of tension that Randy Blythe’s trend-setting style first laid out. You can hear this comparison best on “Endless Vengeance”, where the deeper vocal tones takes precedence and works extremely with the slightly slower and heavier riff which dominates the first part of the track while the higher pitched screams move at a breakneck pace.
And there you have it, an album which goes hard and spares no time for apology. Will it shake what you know of the genre? Hardly. But will it deliver your daily amount of riffs, screams, and screeching solos? Most assuredly and isn’t that what, at the end of the day, first drew many of us to metal? That catharsis in the unrelenting pace, the bursting fires of over-exaggerated passion, the crushing sensibility of the distorted? You’ll find all those in droves on Guardian of the Fire as it winds its way down tried and true paths of thrash-y, uncompromising metal. Play it loud, play it fast, and feel the tensions of the world fade for a while as metal’s capacity as a vent wraps you in its comforting arms for the duration of the album.
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Guardian of the Fire releases on March 20th. Head on over to the band’s Bandcamp above to pre-order it.