Review Summary: Pantera meets Black Label Society. And I mean that in a good way.
When Pantera left the worldly scene, it was like any sense of post-thrash/groove (or whatever you would like to call this particular brand of metal) had faded from the earth. We have of course seen albums released by the underground thrash revivalists such as Exodus and other similar bands, but nothing as straight up groovy and heavy as Pantera used to be; sure, there’s Lamb of God and Machine Head and similar bands, but all of these guys started before the demise of Pantera. However, now there apparently is this band from Canada that claims to be the next best thing in southern metal.
Well, they certainly weren’t far off base with that call. This stuff recalls Pantera in its exact glory (and the promo flyer that came with it actually recommends this band to fans of Pantera, Down, Slayer, Hell Yeah, Lamb of God and Soulfly.) The comparison stands for one big-ass musical reason though, and that is that the riffs chug and churn with a groove that is very, very reminiscent of the aforementioned bands. It’s headbanging, fist-pumping stuff; nothing mind-bogglingly complex, but it’s loud, it’s fast, it’s heavy as all hell and it’ll definitely get those mosh pits going in a live arena.
This music exudes energy in massive doses. I’m sure that songs like lead single “Broken God” or the (stupidly titled) *** It Up are bound to amazing live tunes, their churning rhythm and chunky riffs getting every metalhead’s neck banging. Another upshot to the riffs is that on some songs, they aren’t afraid to get hardcore-punk fast, upping the tempo from Pantera-average to Slayer-average in no time, lending some of the songs just that extra punch. “From Nowhere to Nowhere” as a whole seems more rooted in punk than metal overall; it feels more reminiscent of Bad Religion than Slayer.
The Pantera comparisons also apply to the vocal part of this album. Singer Greg Cavanagh brings the same sort of piercing snarl that we were used to from Phil Anselmo; his bear-in-a-trap roar is duly emulated. There are even some spoken vocal sections kind of like we’re used to from Machine Head in their Burn My Eyes days. Again this isn’t something that’s extraordinarily deep, but it certainly fits the music on offer like a glove, and I’m sure thrash fans won’t find the vocals an obstacle to liking this (something so often a problem with thrash-based bands.)
However, it’s not just thrash that’s on offer here. Next to southern giants Pantera, the other main influence is Black Label Society; the groove may be Dime-esque, but the licks are very Zakk Wylde; it’s shred, squeals and licks all over. Again it fits perfectly with the style; the songwriting and timing for the lead guitar breaks never feels off and the intro solo to “I Am Nothing” is nothing short of monstrous.
However, for all this good enjoyable groovy metal that the boys bring to the table, there are a couple of flaws on the album. The band tried their hand at some diversity, mainly in the form of a 9-minute closing title track called “Beheaded in Paris”, but they simply don’t have the power to pull this sort of thing off. Much like the way Machine Head’s The Blackening could have much better if they trimmed the songs down, for thrash-based bands, long songs just do not work in context. The other miss element is “Daughters”, a close to-two-minute instrumental acoustic track , but again, it feels horribly silly and stupid. Bands like these should stick to their formula, because it’s exactly what makes them exciting. And for the love of God, the intro to At Last, with its cheesy quasi-choral approach should just leave a fan attempting to shoot the band. You guys aren’t Metallica, you can’t pull off pranks like these on a record.
Overall that just makes the record a very enjoyable one in general. Despite some small flaws and nitpickings, it’s a great slab of pure metal with a little bit of varied other influences. And if that isn’t selling the thing enough for you, did I mention that Devin Townsend (yes, THAT one) mixed and mastered this disc? It may not be everyone’s taste, but it’s a gem in the style that it represents, and a worthy buy of anyone into the thrashier side of metal.