Review Summary: Targeting the past
Out of Newbury Park, California, Warbringer was part of the thrash revival roster that emerged in the middle of the '00s with bands such as Havok, Evile, Bonded by Blood or Angelus Apatrida. The retro trend's purpose, which many like to call neo-thrash, was never to invent the wheel, but rather to pay tribute to the thrash gods of the past, thus keeping the flame alive. Personally, I've always observed this resurgence with some detachment, since I believe this nostalgic approach doesn't deliver anything new nor has any artistic relevance. However, it's undeniable that the aforementioned bands had the merit of keeping the genre afloat, for better or for worse. Being also true, that some releases born out of this roster deserve proper attention such as Havok's Time Is Up
. Warbringer, alongside Havok, was one of the bands that stood out the most over the years by releasing a handful of albums that enjoyed positive acceptance within the thrash community. The trajectory of these Californian lads is at all similar to the vast majority of their thrash comrades, evolving from a more rebellious early signature into a progressively more polished, cerebral sound. This leap is perfectly noticeable when comparing Warbringer's debut to Woe to the Vanquished
, which although not too far apart, are clearly products of different times. While the former has a defiant and uncontrollable nature, sometimes reminiscent of Exhorder, the latter has a more refined and mature approach, with greater production value. Stylistically, the band swings between its major 80's thrash influences, which include Exodus, Death Angel or Testament, among other heavyweights of the genre.
Weapons of Tomorrow
has as its umbrella theme "fear of the future" mirrored both in contemporary and historical topics, such as 'Glorious End' and 'The Black Hand Reaches Out' which are about World War I. Musically, as expected, the band remains faithful to their style and influences. If we want to track the album within the thrash realm, I'd say it's somewhere between Exodus and Death Angel, with Metallica and Testament layers. Some linkages are immediately apparent such as the opener's kick-off that resembles Testament's 'Preacher' or 'Defiance of Fate's' middle riff which reminds of Metallica's 'The Call of Ktulu', just to name a few. These comparisons should be taken lightly, given the particularities of this revivalist genre which has always shown tremendous difficulty in dealing with originality. Nevertheless, Weapons of Tomorrow
reveals a very interesting diversity (within the style limits), exploring various tempos and dynamics. I immediately experienced these contrasts as I went through the album's first half, which brings together the energetic, fast thrash signatures of 'Firepower Kills' and 'Unraveling' with more restrained, mid-paced deliveries of 'Crushed Beneath the Tracks', 'Defiance of Fate' and 'The Black Hand Reaches Out', with the latter also featuring memorable Alex Skolnick-esque solos. Lead guitars shine in Weapons of Tomorrow
, being undeniably one of its most inspired highlights. Despite the band's style restrictions, we still managed to find some interesting out of the box moments, like the black metal nuances in 'Defiance of Fate' and 'Heart of Darkness' or the Accept-esque riff at the end of 'Notre Dame (King of Fools)'. The vocal dynamics should also be emphasized, namely those with narrative nature as in 'Heart of Darkness' and 'Glorious End', with the latter being an emotional father-son dialogue about war, which confers the album a dramatic, epic ending.
Weapons of Tomorrow
could be seen as a logical step, a natural continuity of Warbringer's more recent course. However, despite all its virtues, I would like to see the band exploring more ambitious grounds in the near future, as I strongly believe Warbringer has the potential and sophisticated weaponry to do much more than just targeting the past.