Dutch act Distillator comes about as close to a thrash jack-of-all-trades as one could imagine. From the Bay Area to New York, Germany and Norway and back, just about every thrash region/scene can be heard on sophomore album Summoning the Malicious. The band handles it all well enough to make up for the occasionally rote songwriting, anchoring the album with a few real ragers while never losing full track over 38 minutes.
The album opens with no fanfare or overture whatsoever, just the blazing speed riffs of “Blinded by Chauvinism.” Despite being an opener, the song feels more like the type of tune Metallica would use as a closer, full of speed and always threatening to fly off the rails. It’s basically a mission statement for the band; to play thrash, and play it pretty well. The vocals have that half-yelled, slight punk attitude (with the occasional squeal), solos are drenched in reverb, the production is impeccable (bass!), and the performances are precise.
It’s like the violent edge of the Teutonic scene filtered through the heightened musicianship of the Bay Area, spiced with a pinch of NY punk, and it rarely changes. In fact, if one real knock has to be made against Summoning the Malicious it is that Distillator almost seem a little reserved in how they handle their thrash amalgamation. It never feels quite technical enough, or dirty enough, or extreme enough, as if they aren’t quite sure which branch of the thrash tree that they want to make their own. Counterargument: This is the exact type of complaint that is made only by a person that has heard more than enough thrash in his lifetime. Counter-counterargument: A whoooooooole lot of metal fans have heard more than enough thrash.
Oddly enough, in the few places where they do take one aspect a little further, they find both their worst and best material. The former comes in the moody, slower “The King Of Kings,” which sounds a bit like an outtake from God Hates Us All played by a younger, hungrier band. The best material, on the other hand, comes when the band pushes the speed and violence to the max. The title track in particular is a monster, featuring razor-sharp tremolo riffs during the verse that pairs perfectly with the reverb-drenched vocals, stopping just short of really being “extreme,” but still calling to mind a bit of a Norwegian black/thrash vibe.
Distillator would do well to harness more of this fervor. They can’t really get much more value out of the jack-of-all-thrash approach, because they’re already so good at doing a little bit of what everyone does. For folks seeking just that, Summoning the Malicious provides a largely no-filler, often pretty killer thrash experience. For those of us that have already heard countless thrash albums, however, Distillator might have to take that next step to really leave an impression.