When it comes to black metal, I wouldn’t call myself much of a fan. Though there are exceptions, of course, for the most part, I enjoy black metal musical tropes like I enjoy tomatoes: Sandwich them in with other things, and they’re fine. Stew them up with something else; cook them just right; whatever you have to do to make them less bland. The atmospherics, the strumming patterns, the lo-fi production – they can be nice ingredients in some bigger-picture mixture, but I tend to only enjoy them as parts of a better whole. As a meal in itself, tomato metal leaves me wanting a whole lot more.
The Spaniards in Insulters take their tomato metal all the way back to the seeds, which is with a liberal dose of raw and Celtic Frost-y thrash, and then they mix it with some outside elements to create a tasty little snack. This is black-thrash driven by the d-beat and then flavored with a pinch of some good old fetid death to give it a certain special foulness. It’s a primal mixture, here stripped to the absolute basics, with zero extraneous notes or flourishes. And while I must concede that Insulters’ recipe is obviously not at all an original one, it’s nevertheless one that is proven to work.
Mostly, Metal Still Means Danger sounds like classic Celtic Frost mashed into Darkthrone’s crustier efforts and played by a d-beat band. Insulters’ blackthrashpunk is raw, simplistic, and though it’s far from innovative, it’s full-tilt fun. It harks back to a day, decades ago, when metal might’ve actually meant danger to many, and it manages to capture the spirit of those times in such a manner that, while I wouldn’t say that it’s “evil,” between the punk drive and the bite of the riffs, this Danger does feel appropriately ugly and mean.
What Insulters get right is two-fold: One part comes in the department of riffs. Tracks like “Age Of Terror” and “Burn With The Witch” sport simple, yet very effective punk-thrash riffs that take hold and don’t let up. Again, no extraneous notes, no sweep-picking wankery, no icy kvlt tremolo or pagan folk jiggery – just dirty, filthy thrash riffs like the good devil intended. The other part of their success comes in the form of energy. Much blackness bores me because it feels disconnected, passionless, remote – which is sometimes the intent, I am aware – but I have zero time left for necro-kvlt misanthropy. Give me a band that’s playing like they love what they do, and I’m always a sucker for the spirit.
And of course, none of any of that matters if the band doesn’t crank out some solid tunes in the process, and thankfully, Insulters manages to do just that. From the first riff of “Age Of Terror,” through bruisers like “Icons And Symbols” and the unsubtle “Bang Your Fucking Skull” to the closing title track, Metal Still Means Danger is a wonderfully dirty little blackthrashpunk ride, through and through. The vocals of Blasphemic Vomitor – which is as much his job description as his stage name, I suppose – are snarled and biting, in that Nocturno Culto manner, while drummer Bourbon Devastator pushes everything forward with manic fury. (Mr. Devastator is also of the underrated Spanish death metal outfit Graveyard, and again, he’s likely named after his job description, based on some drummers with whom I’ve shared bands.) Skeleton Grinder’s guitars are thick and positively oozing filth. The whole of Metal Still Means Danger sounds better than the band’s earlier full-length We Are The Plague, and far removed from the scratchy basement level production of their 2011 split with Nocturnal Hell. (A much more roughshod version of “Bang Your Fucking Skull” appears on that split, if you wish to compare and contrast.) Black metal enthusiasts may decry this mix – there’s actual low-end! – but the record benefits from its more accomplished sheen.
Released on New Years Day, Metal Still Means Danger is a hell of a blackened punk bang to start the year – it’s a reminder that there’s still ways to make the old things sound invigorated. Metal may no longer be Public Enemy Number One amongst suburban housewives and the moral majority, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still be fun, right?