Review Summary: These English thrashers have come to stay.
In his latest book, El Fin de la Historia
(Spanish for “The End of History”), Chilean novelist Luis Sepúlveda reveals the story of a veteran compatriot sniper, who is coerced by his former military and political commanders in executing one final contract before being allowed to return to his civilian normality. Through the main character’s struggle in rising above his predicament, the narrative tracks the tumultuous lifelines of people Sepúlveda refers to as “children of defeat”; Latin American civilians-turned-soldiers who were engaged in diverse military operations around the globe, with most of their struggles ending unfavorably, and eventually deemed obsolete upon the collapse of the Iron Curtain.
In hindsight, Sepúlveda’s categorization could also apply to the procurators of thrash metal in the ‘90s, a period where the genre was largely considered as irrelevant. One could go as far as to speculate in favor of a zero-sum game, analogous to the reckless/sham growth insinuated by the iceberg-based megacity on the cover of Shrapnel’s new album, or the bout of most metal bands in making ends meet, in today’s crumbling music industry. Speaking of which, Shrapnel’s crowdfunding campaign for their sophomore album is somewhat surprising, in the sense that their debut was/is so strong, that proper label support should have been in order. Be that as it may, Raised on Decay
maps English thrashers at their current best position, in terms of inspiration and technical means available.
A handful of superficial listens will trick the interested listener into believing that the band’s deliberations, have not changed one bit. Granted, Shrapnel’s instrumental prowess remains well above average; Rhythm section is prone in conflating precision, ferocity and musicality, a combination of traits few other thrash contemporaries can brag about. The exact same apply for the guitars. Lyrical content is well within the genre’s scope, with Jae Hadley’s vocal temperament keeping the blood pumping every step of the way. And yet, Raised on Decay
is a perceivably different affair, compared to its predecessor. Whereas a great deal of the arrangements in The Virus Conspires
had twists and turns, grooves and bumps that worked (and still work) in favor of the album’s life span, Shrapnel’s new album feels more firmly put together, more linear in design. The Englishmen’s gig continues to combine different schools of thrash (Kreator, Testament), but this time around, the heavy/speed metal element (Judas Priest and other outfits come to mind more often than not) has a prominent role, that’s expected to really deliver in live concerts.
The aforementioned setting takes place at the expense of some replay value and the absence of standout songs, also due to the sound work. Contrary to the crisp, dry texture of The Virus Conspires
where the listener felt every note literally plowing his/her ears, the new album has a more low-end and rounded production, one though that does not grant the same depth to all instruments at all times; hence, a bit of livelihood is elided. At instances where (the ever shredding) lead guitars take control, their rhythm counterparts could be beefier in the rear. The same could be said for the vocals, but strictly in comparison to the previous album. The above are probably ascribed to a leaner budget allocated by Shrapnel this time around, yet the realization of a livelier sound may not be too far off, as more (or less…) obvious alternatives in terms of sound producers are out there, having already been availed by bands of smaller/comparable magnitude.
All in all, Raised on Decay
is solid proof that Shrapnel will carry on to whatever end, and much like Sepúlveda’s “children of defeat”, rising above despite being raised on decay (sic), is a definite win that no virtual detractor can denigrate.