What matters more to you between innovation and enthusiasm?
I know what my choice would be. And I know at least a few among you who would very likely disagree…
The week after this digital compilation of Power Trip EPs and compilation tracks was released, I saw the band perform at Third Man Records — my first time seeing Power Trip live. Despite some sonic mishaps, what I saw and heard was what I expected to see and hear, based on their reputation and my experience with their records: It was a thrashing, bashing good time, bursting with energy and riding grooves big enough to drive trucks through. (They are from Texas, after all, and everything’s bigger there…) Drummer Chris Ulsh pushed the whole thing with an almost inhuman drive, while guitarists Blake Ibanez and Nick Stewart spit out a series of riffs that fell in the spaces between Best Wishes and Bonded By Blood, and vocalist Riley Gale stomped and spit. Sure, I’d heard it all before, but I’m too young by a few years to have witnessed thrash’s glory days — and I live in the South and nowhere near the Bay Area or NYC to boot. I’ve been a fan of thrash since the very late 80s, and one of the reasons I attached myself to thrash (and to both the metal and punk that fueled it) is the unbridled energy that emanates from the best of it, the pervasive electric spirit. I’m jaded enough to think that many of the post-millennium retro-thrashers have lacked in that same spirit.
But Power Trip has it.
Now, lest I seem more than a little too fanboy-ish, I will concede that Power Trip is, through no fault of their own, becoming overrated; they are a very good crossover thrash band, with two good records to their credit, but seeing them near the top of multiple year-end lists with Nightmare Logic was a bit… odd, considering many of the other albums released last year. Nevertheless, that’s not what we’re here to talk about.
Opening Fire is an odds and sods stop-gap, one-stop shopping to complete your collection, and as such, it doesn’t really have the same cohesive attack that characterized Decimation and Nightmare, though it’s very much cut from the same cloth, in terms of execution and arrangement and production. What you get here is what you’d expect, based on the band’s reputation and any experience with their other records: It’s crossover thrash, filled with those sweet sweet chunky riffs and various thrash tropes, all performed with that crackling energy; witness the swinging groove of “Suffer No Fool,” or the fun take on Prong’s “Brainwave,” the Tom Araya-lite scream that opens “Armageddon Blues” before it drops into a knuckle-dragging mosh-inducing swagger, the almost trad-metal opening riffage of “Vultures”… There are no missteps, no surprises. If you liked what Power Trip has done on Manifest Decimation and Nightmare Logic, then here’s the rest of it, wrapped up nicely and neatly and ready to wreck your neck.
Yes, of course, you’ve heard this type of thing before, but when it’s done with this level of energy, who cares? Don’t come here expecting anything more than heavy grooves and thrashing riffs and you won’t be disappointed.
So then: innovation or enthusiasm? Me, I’ll take enthusiasm every time.