Before we get into the best of the year shenanigans, we interrupt your normal Into the Pit programming to bring you a short post highlighting some later releases that didn’t quite make it into the already stacked fourth quarter post, as well as a few releases from earlier in the year that slipped past my watchful eye.
Last Acts of Defiance
Motivik – Death of the Gunman
Just missing the cut-off for last month’s post is the the debut record Death of the Gunman by Atlanta’s Motivik. The two-piece, consisting of multi-instrumentalist Ryan Roebuck and vocalist Courtney Simmons deliver a surprisingly sharp take on epic, thrash-infused heavy metal. The band do a good job of blending newer elements into their more traditional approach, while still paying their respects to the old school. Their cover of fellow Georgian thrashers Sacrament‘s “Souls in Torment” even features a guest appearance from the band’s vocalist Robert Wolfe – if we don’t make these references we loose these references, people!
The cowboy shtick isn’t really my thing, but their groove-based thrash assault certainly is. Motivik’s blend of groove-laden thrash and melodic heavy metal, filtered through a bass-heavy modern production job, reminds me of a more trad-metal Meshiaak, or a crunchier Iced Earth even, which is definitely not a bad thing. Some of the presentation and vocals could use some work, but this is a solid and promising late-year debut and I’ll be interested to check out what the band do next.
Downfall – Passive Regression
Straight out of Ancona, Italy’s Downfall bring you some tasty death-thrash in the vein of The Haunted‘s first record; y’know, before all that pesky melody got involved. Their second record, Passive Regression just snuck in before the 2020 buzzer, but is a worth addition to the year’s esteemed thrash catalogue nonetheless. Not much else to say here: this is pure, straight down the line, nasty, ultra-aggressive thrash metal, sure to help ring in the new year in neck-snapping fashion.
Corrupted Saint – Mutilated Before the Masses
Corrupted Saint sure know how to make an impression. Mutilated Before the Masses might only be four-tracks long, but it’s a hell of a ride. Blending an early-Cannibal Corpse-esque, Floridian death metal aesthetic with a frantic crossover thrash template, this Jacksonville quartet comes armed with more than microphone machetes and they mean business. The EP’s efficiency is to be lauded, but I for one look forward to seeing what these guys can do in a long-play format. Ones to watch for sure.
Without Mercy – Seismic
Calling this thrash metal, or even thrash-adjacent is maybe the biggest stretch I’ve ever made. Without Mercy themselves describe their sound as death metal, or even deathcore. Nevertheless, there’s still enough groove and thrash ethos in the riffing to keep it relevant and, besides, it’s my column and I’ll do what I damn well want with it.
The band remind me a lot of death/thrash hybrid Truth Corroded and there’s even a sporatic and varied nature to the vocals, that reminds me of tech-weirdos A Million Dead Birds Laughing. Nevermore‘s Jeff Loomis and Chris Broderick (Act of Defiance, ex-Megadeth)* also show up on a couple of tracks to lend it some extra thrash credibility, and there’s more than a few nods to Dimebag Darrel’s riffing in Pantera (see “Wiindigo” and, especially, “Uprooted”). Genre barriers are fleeting, but good music is forever.
*Wait, Broderick’s in In Flames now too?!?!
Release the Blackness – Tragedy
On a similar note, Release the Blackness aren’t really a thrash metal band, but they’re not really an anything else band either. It’s tempting to describe the band’s sound as progressive death metal but, while the songs can get lengthy, they’re primarilly based are the power of their riffs and the riffing is pure NWOAHM-influenced thrash.
Lamb of God is all over this thing. The opening riff to “Ancestral Inheritance” is more or less a direct lift of the main riff to “Laid to Rest” while “Enlightened by Emptiness” trades on its distinctive breakdown, and that’s just some of the more obvious ones. Another band that’s all over this record is Unearth, which is mostly heard in the vocals, but also in the pummeling thrash rhythms that underpin everything. I like the new Lamb of God record and the last Unearth one just fine, more than most even but they aren’t a patch on this. If either band had released this record, people would be losing their damn minds and they should be about this as well, even if it doesn’t have a big name attached to it.
Tragedy is not quite thrash enough that I’ll be considering it for the best thrash album of the year rankings next round, it’ll no doubt be getting some big points for me in our general album of the year vote.
The Ones We Left Behind
Autonoesis – Autonoesis
I remember our own Jordan Jarabek bringing Autonesis‘s self-titled debut to my attention earlier in the year but, somehow, I forgot all about it until he reminded me of it again the other week. Since I clearly can’t be trusted with these sorts of things, here’s the man himself (who has an impeccable taste in music, by the way) to tell you all about it.
Jordan: Autonoesis is a name to keep tabs on in the coming years – fingers crossed it’s only months – because this debut from August is exceptionally well-crafted. It’s a helluva first impression, one that can obtusely be summed up as an adventurous, death-forward blackened thrashterpiece. Though not anywhere near as on the nose as Gruesome’s tribute, Autonoesis pull heavily from the good book of Chuck, lending a proper prog-death treatment to the world of blackened thrash.
Songwriting is the ace up Autonoesis’ sleeve. Though these dudes (maybe it’s just one dude?) go big and fast in the riffs department, they’re incredibly quick-witted, versatile, and sensible; you can hear their musical language budding into a distinct identity that melds technicality and songcraft in equal measure. Tasteful intros, exquisite acoustic interludes (“Elegy” does an bang-up job setting the stage for epic closer “Death, and the Cosmic Return”), impressive and well-utilized bass work (“Visions”), classical touches (“Horrors of Nothing”), perfectly timed breakdowns (check 4:15 in “Ruins of Heaven”); there’s seemingly no end to all the little things Autonoesis effortlessly nail. Seriously, who the fuck gets that stuff right on their first record?
It’s a joy to chug this thing as it’s absolutely stacked with THE RIFFS and THE LEADS, and Autonoesis are judicious about abusing or overstimulating listeners’ attention with smart arrangements and sequencing. This isn’t a riff flipbook or (as in the case of so many progressive and technical acts), Autonoesis’ progressive angle lends a distinct arc to each track, developing compelling narratives as they inundate you with A-tier riffs and slather you with technically impressive and impassioned leads (you might wanna scotchgard your undies for this one…). In many ways, it’s much like that Inexorum album from earlier this year, but rawer and more progressive.
Though their songwriting punches above the DIY production’s weight class, it still makes for some hang-ups. The programmed drums leave a lot to be desired, leading to some weird-sounding fills, blasts, and hi-hats. The vocals feel a little one-dimensional and could use a touch more variety to better match their vibrant, dynamic songcraft. This considered, it’s not a stretch to pitch Autonoesis like a Revocation by way of Obsequiae – the technicality and melody is very strong with these fellas, plus they have a nice grasp on how to fortify their songwriting rather than erode it with technical gymnastics and attention-seeking, rolodex structures.
Loud Night – Mindnumbing Pleasure
Another long lost Jordan recommendation, Loud Night joining the likes of Midnight and Hellripper in making sure 2020 is a year packed to the brim with stellar blackened thrash-n-roll. No bells, no whistles; just pure d-beat fury, guaranteed to pummel you into a blissful coma.
Nothing – “Subterfuge”
A feature I’m working on for the end of the year post led me to rediscover Melbourne tech thrash three-piece Nothing and to discover (for the first time this time)that they’d actually released a new song this year. “Subterfuge” is apparently the second part of a “5 track concept series” called “Self Repair Manifesto”. I’m assuming the standalone title-track, which they released in 2018, is the first part.
These guys were a bot of a support staple around thelater part of the 2010s. Yet, so far, they only have one full-length, the now-ancient Torture of the Nameless (2009), and a couple of EPs to their name. It’d be great to see another major release from them sooner, rather than later, especially if they’re filled with songs as good as this.
Bütcher – 666 Goats Carry My Chariot
There are some albums that are simply best described with the simple adjective: “unapologetic”. The thing is, these albums aren’t usually that good. Sure, they have hold some novelty value but to actually carry out the sort of unapologetic worship of a genre that many bands aspire to (more and more as we spiral further into the retro-desire for the 80’s and 90’s), a deceptively large amount of talent is required. Luckily, Bütcher have that requisite talent in droves. 666 Goats Carry My Chariot is a love letter to the early wave of British Heavy Metal like early Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, King Diamond (although he’s of course Danish and not British) and Satan. As such, it is lovingly crafted to echo those bands, bringing their sound back to us with some modern frills and sounds.
And when I say “echo”, I mean literally echo; one of the tracks one the album literally has the words “faster than a laser bullet”, lifted from Judas Priest’s class “Painkiller”. The references don’t stop there and many of the tracks also include instrumental hints and piecemeal bits of past albums. So why does it work so well? It sounds like this album should be the definition of derivative, relying on recycled ideas from days of glory past. But, instead, 666 Goats Carry My Chariot bleeds with a passion, a love for the genre and it’s classic tropes, that makes it a whole lot of fun. Most importantly, it makes it sound fresh and buoyant instead of tired and laden with dead-end years.
In short, it’s a really powerful, straight-forward, and energetic album that will appeal to anyone who likes fast riffs, galloping bass, and falsetto vocals. Don’t forget that this is where thrash started; Metallica grew up on Iron Maiden and the roots of the genre were always here. Let Bütcher take you on a journey, yes on their chariot with its 666 goats, into metal’s glorious past. It’s fun to reminisce and there’s a reason we all fell in love with this music; a lot of it was because it sounded, and looked, like this.
And that’s a wrap. See you in a couple of weeks for the 2020 roundup. And yeah, I listened to that Armored Saint album, and all I have to say bout it is: uh, that’s the “Caught in a Mosh” riff, actually.