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Friday, June 19, 2009

CD Review: Warbringer - Waking Into Nightmares

Warbringer - Waking Into Nightmares
2009 Century Media
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

The party-crashing bit of news to this whole thrash resurrection of the past few years, sad to say, is the iconic albums of the form have long been recorded, released and imprinted upon the scene for eternity. Not to sound elitist, but nothing today is going to stand up to Reign in Blood, the album by which all thrash and death metal releases must answer to.

You can likewise forget trying to duke it out with Testament's The Legacy, Dark Angel's Darkness Descends, Overkill's The Years of Decay, Death's Leprosy, Anthrax's Spreading the Disease, Megadeth's Peace Sells...But Who's Buying, Exodus' Bonded by Blood, Kreator's Pleasure to Kill and of course Metallica's Kill 'em All.

These are but a handful of thrash metal's untouchables and as today's generation of headbangers take inspiration in replication, the results have been admittedly good and even spectacular in special cases such as Mantic Ritual, Demiricous, Goatwhore and Skeletonwitch. Nevertheless, the likelihood we're going to find a Bonded by Blood surface from a scene with too many players in it is grossly against the odds.

Try telling that to Warbringer.

2007's War Without End was an impressive announcement that today's youth brigade means to claim traditional thrash unto themselves while the pioneers and their aging fans cling adamantly to what was once theirs. Nevertheless, Warbringer brought it on War Without End and created so much of a buzz in the metal underground their follow-up would end up being cast under a microscope by attrition.

Not that they asked for it, but Warbringer has assumed a heavier burden than perhaps even they realize simply by being the closest resemblence to a vintage thrash sound as anyone attempting it today. A generous helping of revival thrash acts offer them competition, yet Warbringer's differential on their sophomore release Waking Into Nightmares is from being one of the first of their generation to shoot all of their stakes into creating a genuine thrash classic.

Sure, you're going to hear Slayer all over the danged place on Waking Into Nightmares, particularly through vocalist John Kevill's gravelly pentameter, not to mention certain riff structures hailing everything from Hell Awaits to South of Heaven. You even hear some Fabulous Disaster-era Exodus at points, which is barely a fluke considering Exodus shredder Gary Holt manned this thing. Listen carefully and you'll even discern a few smackerels of early Metallica in spots, not to mention Warbinger's direct riff chug 'n snare roll hijacking from ...And Justice for All in the beginning of "Forgotten Dead."

Despite, Warbringer are still their own band and there's a hell of a lot to get excited about with Waking Into Nightmares. The old school meets new school adage couldn't ring truer with this album which nearly makes War Without End an afterthought in comparison.

To say Waking Into Nightmares takes Warbringer to the next level is like saying Ire Works ushers Dillinger Escape Plan past a distorto-crazed existence into something of higher esteem. Not that you can put Waking Into Nightmares against, say, Possessed's Seven Churches and expect the latter to take down the former, you have to nonetheless tip your hat to Warbringer for bringing everything they have to the table.

Like Demiricous, who vaulted in prowess within the span of an album, Warbringer raises the bar upon themselves as well as their peers (both young and old alike) simply with "Living in a Whirlwind" which bears all the elements of thrash excellence: killer riffs, pounding beat patterns which change from mosh-minded to double kick and discernable vocals which involve the listener, particularly on the shoutalong chorus. All interchanging in well-executed sound scaffolds.

From there, Warbringer smacks the eardrums of their listeners with the opening grooves of "Severed Reality" before igniting the fucking thing with uncontrollable speed bursts mingled with varied bobbing tempos which settle into a Slayer-driven thrash mode everyone into this stuff can get on board with. They even incorporate Slayer and DRI slowdowns and breakaways into the same song. How about some snazzy guitar spliffing and soloing from Adam Carroll and John Laux while we're at it (with Laux sporting a retro Kirk Hammett look about him)?

The drowsy instrumental "Nightmare Anatomy" is hypothetically Warbringer's own "Call of Cthulu" though with more of a Mastodon-esque approach and yielding a plethora of countering double bass trips and jazzy snare hits from Nic Ritter before fusing a couple of escalated fuzz sieves into the mix. Accordingly, "Senseless Life" is one of Warbringer's most complicated and best-written tunes, beginning the first segment with outrageous velocity then smartly scaling into winding power metal progression, a thumping air which carries into the intro of "Forgotten Dead."

While Warbringer does retool and cue up many of the same mosh-thrash motifs throughout Waking Into Nightmares, they undoubtedly carve and execute with force and better yet, passion, in the process demanding respect from their elders much less their own.

Nic Ritter does get a little trigger happy at times on this album, which is perhaps the only impediment preventing Walking Into Nightmares from being a rare thrash classic, but without his otherwise disciplined tommygunning, Warbringer wouldn't be so well along the curve as they are. That being said, let this album serve as today's mark to beat...

Rating: ****

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just brilliant stuff. Slayer is omnipresent. So what. When it is carried out with such conviction this amazing music. This reminds me of Airbourne. They just do the original in a new and reinvigorated way.