Like many fans of Ye Olde Days Of Metale, I was pleased with the idea of these newbie thrash bands popping up everywhere, raising their horns in tribute to bands and albums I’d always loved. But sadly, I was never really blown away by much of the actual music. As fun as Fueled By Fire, Merciless Death, Toxic Holocaust and the like may be in the moment, none of them left any huge lasting impression on me, aside from making me truck my fat ass downstairs to dig up my jean jacket and my copy of Darkness Descends or Hell Awaits or Pleasure To Kill.
So here’s to you, Warbringer, for kicking my jaded butt across the room and making me want to listen to you instead of whatever’s on your iPod.
Musically, War Without End blends the usual array of influences—particularly Slayer and Exodus—with a shade of early death metal like Death and Obituary. Vocalist John Kevill is venomous, a snarling blend of the legendary vocalists of the bands I just listed, with Araya as his most obvious forefather. (Most pleasing to these ears: his occasional tinges of John Tardy-ness. “Hell, yes,” I say when that sweet growl hits. “Hell… yes.” He also avoids too much of the falsetto squealing, and that makes me happy.) The riffs are fast and precise, appropriately reverent at the altar of Bonded By Blood without being lame cliche. John Laux’s and Adam Carroll’s solos are fleet-fingered and surprisingly melodic. While their performances are furious as hell, nothing here is sloppy—Warbringer isn’t as technical as, say, Megadeth, but they’re tighter than the likes of vintage Sodom. On the songwriting front, there are tons of gang choruses on hand, and while by disc’s end the tracks start blurring together a bit, the band has the good sense to vary their approach just enough to keep your attention dialed in for most of the ride. To top it off, there are plenty o’ mosh-worthy mid-tempo sections for the circle pits.
War Without End also packs a pretty solid production punch. Having thrash guru Bill Metoyer behind the boards gives the record some retro-cool street cred, for sure, but he’s smart enough not to make it a total rehash of his past. Even as it pays direct homage to its ancestors, War Without End wallops like a modern record, instead of being solely a re-enactment of 1986. (For example, the guitars have actual low-end.) Put another way, it sounds like a band from back then time-warped up to now and made their next record, instead of sounding like some kind of archaeological dig unearthed this in DD Verni’s back yard and now here it is in my car stereo. I will take a small potshot at one little thing: Assassin called, and they want their menacing-tank-on-yellow-background artwork back.
So, yeah, you’ve heard all this before, it’s true. In fact, you’ve literally heard some of it before, since four of these tracks are on their debut EP, One By One The Wicked Fall. (What’s here from that release is re-recorded with improved production.) But chances are, you’ve not heard this done much better since the first wave of thrash giants two decades back. So I’ll admit that I’m impressed, as if you couldn’t tell. It’s just damn energetic, and it punches hard and fast, exactly what I always loved about old-ass Testament and Sacred Reich and whatnot. After all the buzz around their mini-scene, Warbringer has finally given me the thrash-revival album I wanted to hear.