Genres can work a number of different ways. They can be a crutch, allowing uninspired bands a relatively easy foothold with a niche demographic. They can be a challenge, prompting ambitious bands to claw impatiently at the perceived limits of their chosen style. Both of those scenarios, however, presuppose a common fact: musical genres are conversations. If you care to be momentarily generous, this (more than outright laziness) is why terrible writer nerds such as myself spend so much time trying to tease out just who (and how) a particular band or album sounds like: no band exists in a vacuum, and therefore how they choose to enter a conversation is relevant to judging any album’s success.
Condor’s Unstoppable Power enters the black/thrash conversation with the snotty arrogance of someone who thinks they already know it all. It’s a tactic with a few obvious corollaries: 1. If you can bring the jams, much will be forgiven. 2. Even if you do bring the jams, you’re entering a conversation with an already limited vocabulary that’s been running on for decades. With all of that in mind, Unstoppable Power is undeniably a “Did I forget to flip the record?” kind of record. From the spooky reverbed intro to the Bathory ripoff outro, you have heard one hundred percent of this before. But that, of course, is much of the charm and comfort of a record like this. Imagine that Condor has worked to lovingly craft the album to sound like your favorite pile of old records, and that both you and they have gotten so thoroughly wrapped up in the imitation that the demarcations from the original blur.
“Am I listening to Obsessed by Cruelty?” you might think. “Isn’t that riff just like the one on Voivod’s War and Pain?” “Are the trill-happy riffs in ‘Embraced by Evil’ and ‘Unstoppable Power’ basically the same thing?” The answers don’t particularly matter, though, because they illustrate the conversation Condor is inviting you to join. Their crude but gleeful black/thrash is clearly spawned from the same regional scene that includes Aura Noir, Nekromantheon, Toxik Death, Audiopain, Mion’s Hill, and even Thee Progenitors Of Maximum Speed/Thrash Mustiness, Darkthrone. Unstoppable Power tames some of the raw sloppiness of Condor’s self-titled debut, and by doing so removes at least a sliver of the band’s lusty charm. But as with all the best black/thrash, Condor is here to riff, and if it is riffs you seek, you shall not find them wanting.
“Chained Victims” might be the best complete song on the album, but “83 Days of Radiation” opens with a wildly fun cock-rock swagger of a main riff. Condor’s bass is knobbly and mid-range, while the guitar needles and slices and chunks its way from punk speed to thrash call-backs and blackened shadings. At risk of repetitiousness, you have heard this all before. You have heard Aura Noir and Absu, Destruction’s Sentence of Death and Sarcofago’s INRI. Condor has, too! They want to talk to you about it all! If you don’t quite have room on your shelf for Unstoppable Power next to Whiplash’s Power and Pain and Bathory’s The Return, that’s okay. But if you do, they will all greet each other as old friends. They may not have new stories to tell, but they know how to raise hell.