Review Summary: An album which doesn't exactly redefine modern day thrash, but perfects it.
When the New Wave of thrash first emerged in the early/mid 2000s, there was a huge buzz among the metal community. Bands like Evile, Municipal Waste, Toxic Holocaust and Warbringer were reviving the legendary sound once pioneered by legendary bands such as Slayer, Metallica, Exodus etc. However, as the decade progressed, the bands in this New Wave were starting to become insipid, uninspired and in some cases, plain rip-offs of the legendary thrashers of the 80s. It almost seems as if the new wave has died out as quick as it was born.
One band creating a glimmer of hope for the movement however is Greece's Exarsis. Dropping their album 'The Brutal State' in 2013, Exarsis take the speed, intensity and overall energy of Kreator and Exodus and entwine in with the modern-day production values of bands like Evile and Warbringer. It's easy to be turned off by this band before listening to them; you could be easily forgiven for assuming that this was yet another vapid New Wave of Thrash release. However there are multiple things that set this band apart from their counterparts.
For a start, this album has energy, and lots of it. 'The Brutal State' is such a refreshing listen when compared to other modern thrash releases plainly and simply because there is a genuine intensity and ferociousness behind the riffs and percussion with Exarsis. There is hardly any let-up in this album, just 40 minutes of straight, break-neck thrash. Songs like 'Surveillance Society', 'Apathy, Ignorance, Oblivion' and the hard-hitting (proper) opener 'Mind Poisoning' send the listener into a headbanging frenzy in such an easy way that it almost seems effortless. The modern day production actually helps this band to achieve a nice 'crunchy' sound to the guitars. Rather than coming off as over-produced and too clean, the production somehow emphasises the quality of the riffs on this album, and is one of the few examples where modern day production actually comes to the aid of a thrash band rather than hindering them. The production also manages to make the bass very audible without taking away the dynamics of the guitars, and all the instruments seem to be mixed to perfection.
There is just one glaring fault with 'The Brutal State': the vocals. Although the vocals fit the aesthetic of the band to a decent degree, it is easy to be put off by them. It seems like they are halfway between snarling and shrieking, and they just come off as very, very highly irritating. Some listeners may like them because of how well they fit with the chaotic nature of the instruments, but just as many (if not more) will be extremely put off the album purely for the vocals. If there is one divisive element of the album, it is definitely the vocals. It's such a shame because it really stops this album from becoming something truly special and universally likeable.
But despite this, there is no denying that this record is sure to whet the appetite of many a thrash metal fan. Don't dismiss this if you hate the New Wave of thrash for its tendencies to spew out insipid, over-produced bands; although 'The Brutal State' doesn't deviate away from its obvious influences with regards to sound, it doesn't sound forced, uninspired or incoherent. It's the knack for writing genuinely intense, frenzy-inducing thrash which really separates Exarsis from their contemporaries. The bottom line is that this is an extremely fun record to listen to whether you're a fan of the New Wave or not, and sees Exarsis ascending to near-kings of modern day thrash metal.