The second thrash explosion of the last decade or so has been interesting to me who lived through the original. Back then I was initially drawn in by songs, such as Accept’s “Fast as a Shark” or Motorhead’s “Snaggletooth.” But the first real thrash bands I heard were Anthrax, Metallica and Slayer. I don’t care to quibble about whether they were or were not thrash – at the time they were because that was the word we had.
Somehow thrash bands sounded enormous but remained light on their feet, tight musically and true to the idea of self-integrity. They could write about anything they wanted. Comic books, race relations, Cthulhu, self-reliance, sex or just the joy of thrashing. It was a liberation of American metal from the dull Mtv driven schlock that had made up most of the early 80’s.
What was important about thrash for a kid from pre-internet Utah who had to take whatever metal he could get where he could get it was the door it opened. From those three bands I found indie, punk, hardcore, garage, alt and everything in between. It prepped me for the explosion of metal styles that characterized the late 80’s and 90’s. And it was FUN!
The second wave, which I kind of feel started with The Crown et al, but really hit its newfound stride with the impossible Vektor, has all the fun and ferocity of the original scene. But without that sense of an opening door just behind them, the bands making up the movement have to deal with the loss of a very important dimension to me.
The excitement of discovery can’t be recreated; it has to emerge naturally. So the bands have only their merits as bands to recommend them. Many have certainly presented themselves as worthy musical successors to the greats of old. One such band is Hemotoxin.
But first things first:
Holy Kick Drum!
Hemotoxin play a speedy technically adept version of modern thrash with great enthusiasm and atmosphere. The songs careen by, then break into a 1986-worthy mosh pit break like they were co-headlining with Bonded By Blood era Exodus. The riffs are exciting and controlled, with the bass building intricate structures rather than simply laying a foundation. If the songs were a building, it would be a grand cathedral, and the bass the flying buttresses, serving as both support and artistic statement.
A stellar aspect of the record is the creative feel the band gives the songs. The beginning of “Minus Human,” for example, has the twin guitars engaging in a latter-day-Death-esque regressive tangle, only to drop out and be replaced by a fretless bass/drum jazz walk before start-stopping a couple of more tangles, then smashing into the head-banging verse riff. It might seem like a stunt, but it actually demonstrates the band can and will fuck with us to get our attention. And as such, it works perfectly. They follow up the track with the more straight-forward “Not of this World,” which simply thrashes like I did when I still had a healthy back.
Hard. When I had a healthy back, I used to thrash very hard… nevermind.
The vocals are in the tradition of Dark Angel, D.R.I. and Kreator; sharply barked shouts, almost black metal in their raspy effect. The production is crispy, high-end and keeps the sound moving. The guitars are dirty yet cleanly rendered and the bass is very present.
But about that kick drum…look, I like the triggered sound just fine. I am not some purist. And I do like the general effect the almost electronic sounding kick has on most of the songs. But sometimes it literally squelched the other instruments out of the mix entirely. Which, to be fair, may just be an issue with the promo’s sound quality, but if not, it might turn off some listeners.
Should you get this record? Yes. If you are a new-or-old thrash fan, you shouldn’t miss it. If you are just a fan of fast, filthy, technical metal, you should look into it. Casual extreme metal fan? Worth your time. Stickler for basement sounding drums? Mmmaaayyybe not, but… yeah, even you should at least give it a listen. The band captures the virtuosity and the fun of the early thrash scene and delivers enough of itself to not sound warmed over. Looking forward to the future with Hemotoxin, even without the potential for unknown others.