Review Summary: Weaponizer rides a motorcycle through the apocalypse and drives a hot spike right between your eyes. Very tight and consistent black/thrash metal with a badass rock-and-roll attitude -- surprisingly distinct and coherent take on the genre.
Weaponizer has been around for a long time in the Denver metal scene, and mostly anyone who has been going to black, death, or thrash metal shows in the area likely know their classics by heart. These songs were captured decently on their self-titled album from 2012, a great though not thoroughly-impressive album. A proper release with high-quality production and a more solidified, coherent sound has been long past due. Luckily, 20 Buck Spin has brought us their second full-length effort Lawless Age, which comes eight years after the formation of Weaponizer, and it succeeds at presenting a clear and focused showcase of Weaponizer's sound and approach towards sleazy black/thrash.
Overall, this album is a great achievement. The songs are all well-written, filled with solid and tight riffs, and about the appropriate running time for a release in this style of extreme rock and roll. There's definitely a consistent "riding a motorcycle through the apocalypse" vibe from start to finish, which hits hard and sounds badass. The band makes it obvious on this release that they have a clear vision for their sound which is surprisingly distinct for the otherwise fairly generic subgenre. If you're looking to feel like a blood-crusted beer-bloated warrior for a half hour, this is a great album to listen to. It's rock and roll as hell. I'm not sure how you can do much better than this -- the score for this album is representative of "the best of thrashy extreme metal" and it's obviously not going to evoke the same sort of amazement or response as a less rigid, more artsy album might -- but that's far beside the point.
Weaponizer is mostly content to blaze through songs at a fairly quick pace, transitioning between punishing blast beats, double bass runs, and more traditional straight thrash beats, though they are not shy to slow things down and utilize dynamics to their advantage. I appreciate this, as it obviously makes the thrashier stuff seem faster and hit harder, and reduce the overall listening fatigue you might get when you sit down and listen to 30 minutes of straight thrash riffing -- though this album is over before you know it. Many of the major transitions are broken up by a solo, hooky guitar lead that goes into the next section of usually blistering rapid-fire riffing. If anything, the hooks aren't quite as catchy as their past full-length ("Spitfire!") but I find the songs on here to be overall notably more consistent and interesting.
The instrumentation is excellent and the band plays really tight on this album. The guitar, drum, bass, and vocal work is all very precise. Interestingly they've brought in a handful of guitarists to perform some quality leads and solos on this album which works well and introduces some flavor between the various songs. The album is clear and clean but not over-produced -- authentic! -- we even get a little hint of studio banter at the start of "Rattenkrieg."
The guitars sound good with a nice amount of meat on them (definitely not too trebly, which seems to be a common affliction in this subgenre) which is perhaps the most noticeable improvement from their previous album. Man, the twin guitar attack at times sounds FULL and excellent -- a good example is the start of "Iron Clan Exiles" which is also a great example of how well they've blended black metal and thrash. The drums sound great too, sitting at about the perfect level in the mix, with the snare cutting through consistently during the blast beats. The bass is well-performed and audible though I feel it could have a bit more of a bite and growl to it considering the lower-mids / upper-bass frequencies in the master are a little sparse. The vocals have a lot more character to them compared to their past releases, much more interesting. Barbarian's war-like barking fits Weaponizer's sound perfectly, accenting and tying together the instrumentation perfectly.
Overall, a great release of extreme rock and roll. Crack open some beers, crack open the Lawless Age CD case, and crack open some skulls. Weaponizer is in their element here, and they strike hard and fast before riding into the distance, leaving you wanting more. It's hard to recommend a particular song off this as they are all so surprisingly consistent.