Review Summary: Thrash+. Or make a sentence with 'masterpiece', 'overlooked', 'power/tech thrash'.
Unlike in many cases, as musical references to other bands accumulate while one is listening to an album, with Realm's Endless War
these similarities team up to create a reassuring frame for assessing the band's genuine quality, rather than prompting to write them off as a generic epigone. The reason for this is simple: Realm is good. Thus, during the first aural encounters with their 1988 debut, genealogical lines from Mercyful Fate and the NWOBHM over Metal Church to Agent Steel and even Slayer will readily pop to mind, as will a close technical and aesthetic kinship with metal contemporaries such as Toxik, Watchtower and Annihilator. Discussing Realm primarily in terms of overlap with these other acts, however, would do injustice to the distinct musical identity the band has undeniably succeeded in carving out for itself. This being said, while never roaming far off recognizable thrash paths, what Endless War
showcases is definitely Thrash+. With '+' comprising a range of qualifiers from 'power' over 'prog' to 'catchy' and 'tech': in the realm of power-infused technical thrash with more than a fair share of prog, Realm found the perfect innovative blend for an unforgettable dynamic delivery.
has a pervasive sense of urgency; it breathes intensity from start to finish. While the title track and Slay The Oppressor
propel the listener head-first into the first half with tremendous momentum, by the time one gets through the tempo and mood switches of Eminence
and Fate's Wind
, Root Of Evil
already chases on past the halfway mark, but not before a hyperkinetic thrash rendition of the Beatles' Eleanor Rigby
pops up as an unexpected interlude (in case you are wondering why it is featured on Endless War
, it was the track that got Realm their album deal with Roadrunner). The pace is relentlessly maintained right up until Poisoned Minds
, which is perhaps best described as - in hindsight - Rush gone Aspid.
If the energy on this album is next level, so are composition and instrumentation. To put it intuitively, tracks tend to develop according to one or two thrashy blueprints that settle easily into the ear, only to take unexpected turns and original re-turns, but never at the price of catchiness and dynamics. Likewise, although evidence of instrumental and metrical mastery abounds throughout - Laganowski and Kinis never stop riffing, harmonizing and soloing, while Olson's pounding drums and Post's fingerpicked bass riffs complement the guitars all in showcasing their own character and craftsmanship -, technical acrobatics will never take dominance over melodic flow (see e.g. Second Coming
, All Heads Will Turn To The Hunt
, bonus track Theseus And The Minotaur
). What puts Realm's songwriting in the top-tier of power/tech/prog thrash is that it succeeds in masking cerebral jazziness with deceptive simplicity. Production follows suit with a balanced mix where each instrument is equally distinguishable next to what really tops this album off: the vocals. In the same range as Toxik's Mike Sanders or Watchtower's Alan Tecchio but with a more accessible timbre, Mark Antoni's effortless shrieks deliver heroic, take no prisoner pathos without ever becoming pathetic. These are high-pitched power thrash vocals done exactly as they should be done, contributing the right color to the dynamic mood of each song.
In the band's own words, when Realm formed, it "set out with a clear objective to create music that was heavy, futuristic sounding, and complicated in a simple sort of way". A prophetic statement, as the appeal and energy of Endless War
(and its successor Suiciety
, for that matter) remain untouched to this day. Incidentally, for those tracing the musical ancestry of modern progressive thrash bands like Vektor, Endless War
provides material to fill in at least some of the remaining hiatuses. If you think that is a bold statement, just compare Root Of Evil
with Venus Project
from Vektor’s Outer Isolation