Review Summary: The Spanish thrashers refine the straightforward approach of the previous album in the light of their past (and more mind provoking) works.
For those who track the movements of the metal underground more often than usual, it is no secret that the Spanish rock/metal scene has been growing for quite some time in terms of quality. To that end, the course of thrash metal outfit Angelus Apatrida (Spanish for “stateless angel”) since the middle ‘00s, is a highly representative summary of the said growth. Their supposedly humble beginning with Evil Unleashed
was anything but, with thrash metal becoming the substrate upon which various influences from metal genres and bands (Iced Earth-like power/thrash, ‘80s heavy metal, nu-metal, even southern/stoner metal!) were allowed to settle. On the sophomore album Give ‘Em War
, however, the said experimentations gave way to US West Coast (crossover) thrash, along with traces of early ‘90s death metal.
With the follow-up album Clockwork
(and first for a major label), Angelus Apatrida introduced themselves as a first class tech thrash outfit and gave out their own version of albums like Rust In Peace
(more) or Never Neverland
(less). The band’s flirt with tech thrash turned out to be a one-off deal since the fourth affair, titled The Call
, was substantially more straightforward in terms of arrangements. It is this straightforwardness that the Albacete Spaniards attempt to refine on their new album Hidden Evolution
As with every Angelus Apatrida album, Hidden Evolution
is brimming with intensity and drive. The band’s instrumental proficiency is top notch, yet considering the tech thrash mayhem documented in Clockwork
, it feels sort of trapped in the album’s linear design. The album has a great replay value, and yet as a result of the “going by the numbers” song writing, it is difficult to pinpoint standout tracks aside from the “Architects” single. The said straightforwardness applies even for the album’s clue, namely the balanced presence of crossover thrash (bear Anthrax in mind) with the power/thrash metal of bands like Annihilator and Judas Priest. Overall, the sound production, courtesy of Daniel Cardoso (Anathema, Head Control System etc.), is “100% digital” but works in favour of the music, especially for the case of copious listening sessions with good headphones at fairly high volume levels. In particular, the guitars have been given this fuzzed out sound that works well in the aforementioned respect, although it “sacrifices” some of the edge evident in the band’s precise thrash riffing.
As far as thrash metal outfits go, vocalists are usually regarded as the fifth wheel, but that’s hardly the case for Guillermo Izquierdo (also in guitars). Review readers are prompted to go through the band’s discography back-to-back and see for themselves that the guy has no problem adopting (even improving) the singing styles of vocalists like Matt Barlow (debut album), Chuck Billy (Give ‘Em War
) and Dave Mustaine (Clockwork
). On par with the arrangements, his vocals in the new album are intense and maintain some of Dave Mustaine’s quirkiness, but this time around, he is in for a more personal vocal performance.
Looking at Hidden Evolution
from a distance, Angelus Apatrida have produced a great album while residing within the comfort zone of its predecessor for the first time in their career. While all is done with a penchant for quality and well intended professionalism, their past works – Clockwork
in particular – imply that, in future releases, the band should dare going beyond the outer limits within which the majority of thrash metal outfits reside. The great unknown awaits for them.