While not as well-known abroad, the 90s Spanish death metal scene had quite a few noteworthy bands that contributed their own take on the genre. Through the efforts of Xtreem Music a lot of these groups have had their earlier material re-issued and offered up new albums, sometimes a decade or two after they were last heard from. This is the case with death/thrash band Canker, who originally re-issued their 1994 debut ‘Physical’ in a compilation that included their earlier demo material. Now they’re set to release their third full length album ‘Earthquake’ on September 18th, their first all-new material since 1997’s ‘Exquisites Tenderness’. What you may not know is that this actually isn’t a brand new record from the current incarnation of Canker, but rather a previously finished and unreleased album that’s been lying dormant since 2005. But you wouldn’t know it upon first listen, and it gives listeners a window of where the band was at this point in time and where they’re likely to be headed in the future.
Over the past year, Swedish label The Sign Records has been exposing listeners to a number of promising bands from their home country. Rather than sticking with one particular genre, they’ve put out releases from almost every sub-genre of metal. One of their more recent signings is black/thrash group Nekrokraft, whose debut full length ‘Will o’ Wisp’ originally saw release in November of last year. With the end of year timing this one may have slipped under your radar, but with an official North American release of the album set for July 7th now is a great time to fix that. Today we’re streaming ‘Will o’ Wisp’ in its entirety so you can hear for yourself how well these guys have this style down.
Is there any metal genre that persists as doggedly throughout the ages as thrash? Many young bands attempt to harness the exuberant, no-shits-given attitude of thrash’s golden age era, but far fewer manage to pull off.
Power Trip (Dallas, TX) is not one of those. Their first full-length “Manifest Decimation” sent ripples through the rowdy world of crossover thrash back in 2013 — but I give all the credit to this year’s “Nightmare Logic,” a cunning, concise cut of slammin’ jams that hark back to a time when metal’s ascension seemed unstoppable, for completely recapturing that old sorcery. It’s authentic, executed with a serial killer’s craft, and I knew I’d be crazy to miss seeing it played live.
I had just that chance on April 9th when Power Trip steamrolled through the West Coast on their latest tour. I’d be visiting an old haunt for a tacked-on “after party” of a momentous two-day indie/emo festival themed around “when we were young” — appropriate, then, for a night of thrashy throwback goodness.
Stars on Stage in the Constellation Room
The Constellation Room is a satellite (heh) venue of The Observatory in Santa Ana, CA. I’d spent many late nights there watching the biggest names in power metal perform on the main stage back when it was known as the Galaxy Theatre. The venue was now under new management, and this would be my first time visiting the much-smaller side stage.
After giving twenty bucks to a sketchy parking lot attendant, I sprinted several blocks to the venue, weaving through former (and current?) scene kids, wondering not for the first time whether or not this show would even happen. My skepticism was at an all-time high, but I soon joined a short line in front of the box office, where illegible band logos and long hair overtook the look of dyed hair and lip piercings. I was in the right place after all, among my people.
Once inside, the first thing I noticed was how damn small the Constellation Room was — a single high-ceilinged room, with the stage to the left and tightly packed merch tables to the right. Ahead of me, a wall of alcohol bottles rose high like a bulwark, backlit with the flow of soft, jack-o’-lantern light — the constellations, I guess? As people packed inside, squeezing me up against the back of the merch table, I thought if anything, this would be an intimate experience.
Opening band The Dark (Los Angeles) was readying themselves onstage, itching to play. They blazed through their set of metallic hardcore punk with reverb-heavy vocals and a rock-solid rhythm section. Next up was local group Mizery (San Diego) — older gents in contrast to the younglings in The Dark, but they commanded the stage with the attention deserved to them. They drew a respectable amount of their own fans — the crowd loved them (me included) — pulsing with every tempo shift, shouting along with the lyrics, and just generally going nuts. After that was Destruction Unit (Arizona), a psychedelic punk group whose fat, fuzzy wall of sound didn’t quite get the crowd going. They clearly had a focused vision of what they wanted to accomplish in a live setting — their final moments onstage had the three guitarists removing their gear while it was still plugged in as the drummer whirled around his kit, creating eardrum-hammering feedback and noise like an imploding jet plane. Unfortunately, they seemed part of a different menu than what the audience had come to eat up, and the main course was being served shortly.
A three-piece drum kit was shared among all three opening bands. Cymbals and snare drums were swapped with each, but the kit remained the same, and that persisted when the members of Power Trip came onstage. Yes, those humble Texas boys set up their own gear like small-timers — whether they chose to do it that way out of artistic integrity or as a result of their Dallas-born ethos, I couldn’t really say. Either way, it let me put faces to the band members who were going to explode the Constellation Room like a supernova.
It was past 1 AM — the time the show was supposed to end — but the room buzzed with anticipation. The crowd was ready to move again.
Trippin’ It Old School
Power Trip opened up the show by unleashing Soul Sacrifice, the first song off “Nightmare Logic,” upon the audience. A blast wave of energy rippled through, churning us into a storming sea of swirling, headbanging hair and pumping fists while the whirlpool of martial arts wannabes roiled in the center. A bolt of lightning cracked overhead, and I saw stars — wait, that was just a stage diver whose proximity I’d failed to estimate. We both fell to the floor, but it wasn’t long before I was back in the thick of it, bobbing to the beat like a storm-tossed buoy.
Power Trip surged ahead with Executioner’s Tax, an homage to thrash’s early days with its pounding percussion and infectious riffing. Guitarists Blake and Nick were relentless — downpicking devastation incarnate — as they accented their notes with the crowd’s cries of “SWING OF THE AXE!” Chris and Chris, the drummer and bassist, held the rhythms down with easy aplomb while vocalist Riley Gale spat fire, his hardcore delivery flooding the room with red-hot magma. True to his namesake, he riled the audience up, charging them with electricity every time he shoved the mic into the front row to let them cover the gang vocal parts.
This was a metal show unlike any I’d been to in over a decade, since I first saw Megadeth for the first time in 2004. I’ll admit I’ve spent much of the last ten-ish years watching bands safely from a distance, drinking in the musicianship from afar rather than getting pulverized in the pit. I’d forgotten how much of a character the crowd could be — and what a fucking character it was! Power Tripping people were constantly clambering onstage to hurl themselves into the audience, which ebbed and flowed with the crashing and rumbling of more mosh-worthy crowd-pleasers like Nightmare Logic, Firing Squad, and Manifest Decimation. When intrepid stage divers, drunk on adrenaline (and probably other stuff), would hurl themselves off the stage, taking the mic stand with them, Riley would abandon his spot on center stage and full-body headbang until the stand washed back ashore. One guy even took on vocal duties for a measure, doing his best to do Power Trip proud before diving back into the audience. Looking back, “audience” doesn’t seem like an appropriate term for those animals — where I was, they weren’t passively watching, but were expending a hell of a lot of effort themselves in the name of good, wild fun. I spent a good portion of the show focusing on the crowd, not only to watch for where the next elbow would come from, but because of how into the music they were.
Near the end of the set, Riley took a moment to compliment The Dark, which he said was his favorite band in California. I got the feeling he wasn’t just pandering — although that would certainly be his right. But between that and his down-to-earth onstage antics, moving deftly between each side of the stage to keep the crowd energized, you could get a sense for his genuine enthusiasm.
The crowd-favorite Crossbreaker was the closer, and people began leaping off the stage like goddamn salmon — their final flight before splashing back into the current toward home. And despite the chants for one more encore, the lights turned defiantly on in the Constellation Room, and the spell was broken.
Planning for the Next Trip
Power Trip’s live show, even more so than their excellent album, exemplifies the grassroots-origins of the thrash genre. That wild night in the Constellation Room formed in my mind a perfect fusion of thrash’s aggression and pace with the DIY mentality of hardcore punk. That nonchalant acceptance of “shit happens” with the storm-tossed mic stands; the hostile takeover of the vocals; even sharing stage-time with their fans — that’s all stuff I’ve rarely seen with a big-name band, much less tolerated by one. By comparison, Power Trip setting up their own equipment just half an hour earlier didn’t seem so strange.
Without a doubt, that night in the Constellation Room was hardly even a blip on the shit Power Trip has probably seen during a show, but I was impressed anyway. And although a week later my bruises are finally starting to heal up, watching their set from inside the pit, shoving and getting shoved alike felt like the right place to be. To share a night with a band and its fans, to cut loose and experience the music the way it was meant to be experienced and the culture that surrounds it — that’s what going to live shows is all about, isn’t it?
The show ended at 1:40, and the crowd trickled out and drifted through the remains of the festival. I sprinted back to the now-empty lot my car was parked in to find a parking violation stuck to my window. Swell. At least I didn’t get a serious concussion from a high-flying fan. I won’t hesitate to see Power Trip again when next they come through, but maybe I’ll stay out of the pit this time.
Atlanta’s Death of Kings has had plenty of time to perfect their blend of thrash and heavy metal, as they’ve focused on short form releases like demos and EP’s since forming in 2009. Last month the group released the single ‘Hell Comes to Life’, and now they’re finally set to put out their debut full length ‘Kneel Before None’. Set for release June 2nd via Boris Records, it’s clear that the amount of time Death of Kings has spent honing their craft has been put to good use, as the album is full of blisteringly intense riffs and soaring vocals that blur the lines between abrasive thrash screaming/singing and falsetto heavy metal singing. Today we’re premiering the album opener Shadow of the Reaper so you can hear just why these guys are one of the more promising bands to come out of Atlanta in recent memory.
When this tour was announced last May, European metalheads were understandably filled with excitement – a lineup this strong was certain to be one of the best gigs on 2017. Aborted and Soilwork are already well into the touring cycle for their most recent – and utterly superb – albums, while this marks the first tour for the newest offerings from Sepultura and Kreator,Machine Messiah and Gods of Violence, both released through Nuclear Blast in January this year. Each band on the bill have years of experience mastering their live show, and by all accounts this was set to be a masterclass in how metal should be performed.
Aborted  opened up proceedings with a show of utter brutality. Focussing mainly on their new material, half of Aborted’s set was made up of tracks from their newest album, RetroGore – easily the strongest album the Belgian quintet’s strongest album to date. Aborted’s brand of grind-influenced death metal is certainly not to everyone’s tastes, but I dare anyone to fault their live show. Though their stage set-up was simple, as one would expect for an opening band, their performance was as tight as tight can be. The sound quality throughout the night was pretty decent, if raw – this rawness lead some of Aborted’s music to blend together and determining the individual tracks was difficult in the wall of extreme death metal blasting from the speakers, but on the whole Aborted proved they are a band worthy of headlining in their own right, and really sent sparks of excitement throughout the crowd.
Soilwork [8.5] followed after a longer than anticipated break. Though leagues more melodic than the gore-obsessed Belgians that preceded them, the Swedish veterans capitalised on the momentum Aborted built. Shockingly, Soilwork played only the title-track from their absolutely wonderful newest album, The Ride Majestic. Instead, they focused on more “classic” material, playing tracks from The Chainheart Machine, A Predator’s Portrait, Stabbing the Drama and The Panic Broadcast. However, two tracks – “Rise Above the Sentiment” and the title track – were present from their stunning 2013 double album The Living Infinite. Equally as tight as Aborted, Soilwork managed to talk the tightrope between brutal and melodic expertly. The only real complaint that can be made is that Björn Strid’s mic was a little too low, and his truly enchanting clean vocals became totally lost in the mix.
Things started to go a little downhill with Sepultura , unfortunately. Technically speaking, there was nothing bad about Sepultura’s performance – Andreas Kisser was able to shred through the few classics they played just as easily as he could in the ’80s, Eloy Casagrande punished the drums and, as I’ve said before, Derrick Green is a really good vocalist. However, their entire performance was flat, uninspired, and frankly boring. When they played the classic material Sepultura is adored for – “Refuse/Resist,” “Arise,” and a track from Beneath the Remains that’s name escapes me – the crowd went understandably mental, and the band really seemed to be in their element. However, the songs played from Roots onwards gave the impression Sepultura were merely going through the motions – metal by numbers, as it were. The steady stream of people leaving the main hall of the Academy to grab merch, get a beer, or nip out for a smoke throughout Sepultura’s set is a clear indication of how disappointing the hour-long set was.
After Sepultura killed the momentum Aborted and Soilwork had so effortlessly built, there was an air of apprehension in the venue. That atmosphere completely disappeared the second Kreator’s [9.5] intro track came blasting through the speakers. Diving straight into a perfect rendition of “Hordes of Chaos,” complete with an awesome delay effect on the vocals for the chorus, all memories of Sepultura’s subpar performance were wiped clean. Gods of Violence, Kreator’s newest opus, is already set to be one of the best albums of 2017 – and the live performance of the title track, the metalhead-honouring “Hail to the Hordes” and the eulogy-esque “Fallen Brother” show Kreator can easily replicate the brilliance of their album tracks in a live setting. Real highlights of the whole night, however, were hearing the evil anthem “Satan Is Real” played note-perfect, and the percussion-led “Apocalypticon” leading into the thrash masterclass of “World War Now.”
Kreator did not focus solely on their newest album, however. Digging into their impressive back-catalogue, the Coma of Souls sing-along “People of the Lie,” 2005’s Enemy of God title track, and a few numbers from their 2012 slab of perfection Phantom Antichrist all made an appearance – including the latter’s instant-classic “Civilisation Collapse.” The band took a short break after “Civilisation Collapse” and returned for an old-school fuelled encore. “Violent Revolution” was played to absolute perfection, and a mashup of “Flag of Hate” and “Under the Guillotine” followed, complete with Mille Petrozza’s signature waving of the Kreator flag. And of course, the Teutonic quartet ended the night with a blistering rendition of Europe’s answer to “Raining Blood,” the title-track from 1986’s utterly essential Pleasure to Kill. Their set did not go completely without a hitch, however – a technical mishap led to the confetti cannon going off during the soundcheck, and for much of the show Mille’s mic was far too low. Otherwise though, Kreator have shown once again that they have the calibre to headline festivals the world over.
I’ve said it before, both on and off the record, and I’ll say it again – Kreator are the best thrash band in the world, bar none. Their unique style and passionate stage performance makes seeing them live a truly special experience. Although their stage show is far from sparse, with the signature steam gun Mille fires into the crowd, and enough pyro to recreate the Fire of London, I can’t help but wonder what they would do with a larger budget for their stage show, but it goes without saying it would be something truly spectacular.
If Sepultura had been cut from the bill with Aborted and Soilwork getting an extra 15 minutes each, the remaining half hour of Sepultura’s set given to Kreator, and slightly better sound, this gig would have been as close to perfect as you can get. The extra half hour would have given Kreator the chance to play more from Coma of Souls, and their new-era classics Violent Revolution and Enemy ofGod. Though there was nothing on their setlist that should have been dropped, a few more of tracks from these albums – had time allowed – would have been something truly special to see.
Tridroid Records has been busy this year, and they’re not done yet. December 23rd will see the release of a vinyl re-issue of Tyrants Blood third full length ‘Into the Kingdom of Graves’. The Canadian black/death metal band originally released this album in 2013, and this vinyl edition will come with new liner notes from guitarist Marco Banco and a download code for the band’s compilation album ‘Coven’ (released a year later in 2014). I was all about ‘Into the Kingdom of Graves’ when it originally came out, and with the re-issue fast approaching I’m happy to have the opportunity to present you with a stream of the entire release. Which gives me another chance to tell you just how destructive of a force Tyrants Blood is, as they’ve gone under the radar for a good number of people despite having been around for a decade and that should definitely change.
Blood Harvest Records has had a fantastic roster of releases this year, many of which we’ve been lucky enough to premiere in recent months. One of the elements I like the most about the label is their emphasis on South American metal, as their reissues and other releases bring material my way that I might have missed otherwise. They’ve saved one of their best efforts for the tail end of the year though, as November 25th will see the release of ‘Archaic Visions of the Underworld’ on vinyl, the second full length from Paraguayan black/death/thrash band Master of Cruelty (CD is being handled by Deathrash Armageddon). It has been four years since Master of Cruelty’s last full length, though they’ve had some splits and an EP in between. Today we’re premiering the record in its entirety, and it’s one of the better examples of the level of talent that can be found in South American metal.
The Gravehill/Mordbrand split wasn’t the only slab of killer vinyl Doomentia Records released on the 18th, as the same day also saw the release of a split between Chile’s Evil Madness and Norway’s Infant Death on vinyl. Released earlier in the year as a limited run cassette from Ancestral Terror Records and CD from Deathrash Armageddon, this is the first time these tracks have been available on vinyl. Both bands offer different takes on thrash, but keep things as old-school as possible and provide the same of unrelenting intensity and chaotic feel that are sure to remind listeners of some of the best acts from the genre’s earlier days.
It has been a few years since we last heard from Cleveland death/thrash band Crucified Mortals. Though the group out a single and two splits in 2013, it has been over five years since their self-titled full length in 2011. In the time that passed, the band went from a full lineup to a duo. Reaper brought in Ash Thomas (Shed the Skin, FaithXtractor) on drums in 2012, and began to work on what would ultimately end up becoming ‘Psalms of the Dead Choir’. With the release of the album on digital and CD formats approaching on October 28th via Hells Headbangers (vinyl is in the works but won’t be out until January 27th), we’re excited to give you an exclusive stream of the record alongside an extensive interview with Reaper. This is some of the finest death/thrash you’ll come across in 2016 for sure!