Review Summary: Rari nantes in gurgite vasto.
In the murky generic sea of modern metal, it's always hopeful and gratifying to see a young band flashing their bright light and standing their ground. Black Fast's full-length debut (they have an EP that pre-dates this) just has that je-ne-sais-quoi
quality to grab and hold your attention. As a matter of fact, je sais quoi
. On the surface, there's the immediate points of reference and recognition that help to anchor and situate the contemporary musical veins in which these dudes operate. Thus, Aaron Akin's raspy vocals as well as the dystopian lyrics and some of the higher-register riffing bring Vektor to mind, while the chord progressions and bursts of melodic shred are regularly reminiscent of Revocation, and a Lamb of God-like groove is also definitely going on in places. Defining this particular album's stylistic and sonic signature in terms of a blend or amalgam of bands X+Y+Z, however, would be pointlessly reductionist vis-a-vis the freshness this St Louis, Missouri quartet brings to the game. As far as tags go, this is progressive blackened thrash metal. Then again, Black Fast also crafts its own very distinctive style, drawing from the subgenre's technical and compositional resources and conventions, while at the same time remolding and enhancing them from a peculiar jazzy angle.
already showcases a great deal of the album's creative capacity at slower to mid-tempo. The ominous main theme riff and the distorted gypsy-jazz chord progression accompanying the verses are interesting in themselves, but by the time the track dives into its second bridge section with a tight jazz/thrash jam (that's right - I've already referred to jazz four times now), it is clear: these guys know how to write intriguing and captivating music. Catchy with complex overtones, combining clever hooks with a dissonant bite at the right moment: it could be the tagline or disclaimer for this track as well as for all the following. The more up-tempo Progenitors of Predation
is tritone heaven with a surprisingly funky swing in the outro, Colony Collapse
has some of the most irresistible riffs and chord progressions in contemporary thrash, whereas Obelisk
creates an instant earworm with its anthem-like tremolo-picked main riff. Following the meditative acoustic interlude Lost Between Worlds
, the title track and Lack Regard
, while already prefiguring patterns on sophomore Terms of Surrender
, nevertheless take off into unexpected breakdowns and twists. Each song develops several memorable themes and displays original tempo and plot changes, but not to the point of arty-fartiness - and never at the expense of coherence.
Musical skill is undeniably at work here, both on compositional and performative levels. The interplay between the bass, guitars and drums is very tight and each instrumental part is sufficiently articulated, although the guitars are naturally spotlighted. The two guitar parts are put to ample use for complementary riffing and interesting harmonies. In particular, riff constructions often involve a puzzling degree of inventiveness and dexterity. The bridge and lead-backing riffs in Obelisk
, for instance, are conceived over roughly half the fretboard and will give both fretting and pickings hands a run for their money. Some of the other riffs are simply too fast to follow (see Lack Regard
and the bridge sections in Progenitors
, Colony Collapse
and t/t). Ferocious melodic leads are generously distributed across the album, never in a gratuitous fashion but always fitting the passage at hand. Obelisk
deserves a special mention in this respect.
The enthusiasm and brilliance these young musicians bring to their debut make it easy to forgive some of the sonic flaws. The well-balanced mix of all the instruments somewhat compensates for a production that is generally flat and makes the album sound patched and assembled in places. All in all, however, everything about this short and fast debut breathes promise and potential. The album just sweeps by, and before you can say 'progressive blackened thrash chord progression', you are already left asking whatever these dudes will be up to next.