Review Summary: If not now, then when? If not us then who?
Power Trip: they're one of the biggest new names in hardcore/crossover thrash/thrash metal, and have certainly received a huge amount of hype from the likes of Metal Hammer and more generally, a whole boat load of 'top 10 albums of 2017' lists. The real question is, do they really deserve it?
Signed to Southern Lord records, the Texas outfit are a little different to many of their contemporaries; less experimental than Havok, less lighthearted than Municipal Waste, and less brutal than former label-mates Nails, Power Trip are part of a nostalgia wave sweeping the hardcore and metal scenes at the moment. From the especially spiky, intimidating logo, to their gloomy, dark and dystopian album covers, the band's image marches in step with what they are trying to achieve musically; resurrect punishing, zero bullsh*t 80s thrash, and do a damn good job of it. The 8 song track listing screams early Metallica, and their reverb soaked back-catalogue - see Manifest Decimation
, and various past EPs and splits - mimics a simpler time when sheer aggression and atmosphere were prized above perfectly mixed technical masterpieces. So, they can certainly walk the walk, but what Nightmare Logic
proves is that Power Trip can damn well talk the talk too.
The opening track, 'Soul Sacrifice', acts as a statement of intent; a steady, chugging, almost Pantera-esque introductory riff looms out of the darkness, before kicking the listener into a breakneck flurry of tremolo picked guitars and furious drum fills. A screaming, whammy-bar filled guitar solo acts as something of a middle-8, before that same sludgy opening riff closes the track out. Far from the most original sound known to metal, what Power Trip do on this opener, and indeed on the rest of the album, is execute their ferocious thrash sound so tightly that it's difficult to fault. Riley Gale's distinctive hoarse shout is mixed in such a way that it punches through the mix without being intrusive; the riffing feels powerful, focused, and not overly technical, simply communicating the same amount of rage as Gale's vocal onslaught. The following track, 'Executioner's Tax (Swing of the Axe)', dials down the pace somewhat, offering one of the catchiest choruses on the record, and sticking to a more 'Symphony of Destruction'-esque groove for its duration. Catchy choruses might seem alien to a genre such as thrash, with the general focus being a little more on riffs, but later cuts like 'Ruination' and 'If Not Us Then Who' deliver infectiously catchy hooks in the form of hardcore-inspired gang shouts.
Whilst the opening two tracks, and the aforementioned later cuts, offer memorable vocal and musical ear worms, Power Trip really set themselves apart is on the third track, 'Firing Squad'. This breakneck slab of unchained aggression sees infectiousness traded off for absolute pace and brutality, approaching the likes of more extreme artists such as Mammoth Grinder. It almost flirts with a more Grind or Death influenced feel than straight up Thrash, before settling back into a satisfying hardcore-esque 2-step groove to close the track out. 'Nightmare Logic' picks up where 'Firing Squad' left off, flurries of tremolo picking accompanying Gale's decrying of modern society's decline. Constant pummelling aside, Nightmare Logic
does, as an album, have moments of space; the sustained chords in the title track's chorus create glimpses of grim atmosphere, whilst the throbbing electronic intro to 'Waiting Around To Die' hints towards the track's slightly more melodic musical direction. The rear end of the LP features, 'Ruination' and 'If Not Us Then Who': another pair of memorable thrash tracks that slightly overshadow the unremarkable closer 'Crucifixation', that whilst competent, fails to really leave the same impression that the rest of the LP does.
What Power Trip do well here is compose catchy riffs, use well-placed tempo changes to keep tracks varied and prevent them going stale (see 'Soul Sacrifice' and 'Firing Squad'), and by keeping the album as short and sweet as it is, construct an engaging, blood-pumping record that doesn't outstay its welcome. Lyrically, the band rallies against the status-quo; 'Executioner's Tax' alludes to a resentment of privilege, whilst 'If Not Us...' acts as a rallying call against the 'Nightmare Logic' present in modern society. Often nihilistic, rarely very specific, the band is hardly attempting Rage Against the Machine's level of social commentary, but do enough lyrically to separate themselves from the tired anti-establishment platitudes that plague much of the punk and metal scene. Where they possibly fall a little short of writing a truly incredible album is in a lack of variety; moments of space mentioned earlier are welcome, and break up the pace giving the listener a rest from the onslaught. However, these are all too sparsely utilised, as the tail end of the record finds itself a little claustrophobic, weighed down under the pressure of its constant musical pummeling. In spite of this, the mix and overall sound is
a refreshing change from the over-produced sound of bands like Get The Shot or Iron Reagan. Its very raw, almost analogue-esque quality helps to build on the throwback feel of the album, oxymoronically making it feel less dated than many of the other artists in modern thrash by virtue of its authenticity to the genre's roots.
Sure, what Power Trip do on Nightmare Logic
is hardly reinventing the wheel, but by emphasising the use of pace, memorable riffing and some catchy vocal hooks, all married to a die-hard commitment to being utterly furious, the band for the most part knocks the ball out of the park on their sophomore LP. Clinically consistent, rarely letting their foot off the gas pedal, Power Trip deliver an adrenaline-pumping revitalisation of a genre that many thought musically played out; not by changing much, but by taking the best parts, and turning them all up to 11.