Review Summary: Adventurous thrash made flesh.
Out of all the rock/metal-based genres that were resurrected during the 21st century, thrash’s revival was probably the most needed. As the ‘80s were about to end, the genre was becoming more and more refined and adventurous on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. For different reasons, the birth of death/black metal and the worldwide supremacy of grunge during the early ‘90s, disrupted the genre’s evolution and led many promising outfits either to disband or to exist strictly within the underground. In contrast to what was the case during the ‘80s, the ‘90s and the first half of the ‘00s, the most encouraging thing about the contemporary rock/metal music scene is the absence of polarity with respect to fans going about every genre, every trend, and consequently every old or new outfit trying to make a stand.
As far as newly emerging thrash metal outfits go, Shrapnel from Norwich, England, appear to be worthy of attention. The band made a solid entry in 2009 with the 5-song EP No Saviours
, an essential emulation of every style of Bay Area thrash, crossover included. The follow-up and self-financed EP The Devastation To Come
in 2010, was an excellent piece of modern heavy/thrash metal, as the band progressed substantially in terms of sound production, song arrangements and individual performances. Sometimes progression tends to be rewarded by third parties, hence Shrapnel were hand-picked by Candlelight Records and recorded their debut album The Virus Conspires
, a collection of 11 songs that sets the bar high for the band and their peers.
Before going into the music, a special reference should be made about the vocals and the lyrics. Contrary to what applies for some thrash outfits, the vocal work is as agitating as good thrash demands by default, while it perfectly endorses the equally agitating music. However, good vocals without good lyrics would make for a half-assed deal, and fortunately, the band has that sector covered as well. To that end, it seems that Shrapnel have thoroughly studied Ed Repka’s legacy artwork about administrations and individuals congregating behind closed doors for the spoils of power and wealth. As a result, the album’s relevant and fluent storytelling is reminiscent of Kevin Spacey’s monumental work in Usual Suspects
Musically speaking, Shrapnel’s debut album puts at display an adventurous blend of speed/thrash metal in the vein of bands like Slayer, Heathen, Testament, Exodus, Kreator, and Overkill and their respective late ‘80s/early ‘90s work. Needless to say, but in order to play like the said outfits and make some really interesting music, the instrumental prowess is a necessary prerequisite, and all Shrapnel musicians are way above average in that respect. The tempo of the album is tense and constantly fluctuating, first of all due to the technical drumming. The rhythm guitars, sometimes coupled to the beat of the drums, adopt the right riffs for the right occasion, and with their well-thought circular succession per song, dilution of the “have heard this before” notion is accomplished. The album’s lead guitar work is yet another highlight, as it lies on the same level with the work of bands such as Heathen and Prototype.
In conclusion, more than half of the album (see recommended tracks below) should be included in every dedicated thrash metal playlist, while the relatively weaker material tends to grow with repeated listening sessions. Speaking about weaknesses, a track list of 8-9 songs would make the album much more cohesive, while the volume of the rhythm guitars seems to be slightly compressed, compared to the The Devastation To Come
EP. The aforementioned shortcomings do compromise the album’s merit to a minor extend, however as a whole, Shrapnel’s debut is a well designed antibody against the viruses conspiring (sic) towards stagnation in thrash metal.
The Virus Conspires
Poison The Mind
All That We Know