Algebra – Pulse? Review

Thrash’s detractors like to claim that the genre lacks both stylistic depth and recent evolution. The former is silly because there are about as many forms of thrash as there are of the other major metal subcategories, but the latter is extremely apt; no one has really done much to move thrash forward since Slick Willie was first heading down the campaign trail for the White House.

Release date: September 30, 2019. Label: Unspeakable Axe Records.
Before you start thinking otherwise, know that Pulse?, the third full length from Switzerland’s Algebra, is not some sudden step into the future for thrash metal. What it is, however, is a great example of how the style can be several things, sometimes all at once. It’s super tight and instrumentally adept but never quite tech, full of fun (and understandable) techno-paranoia in the lyrics, both violent and melodic, and just belligerent enough in the vocal department to maintain the genre’s connections with punk. In short, Algebra gets it, with “it” being thrash’s sometimes hidden breadth.

Despite being Swiss and sharing some common traits with their legendary countrymen Coroner, Algebra’s thrash sounds downright global. They pull from the Bay Area with the occasional prog touch of Metallica and Testament and the irresistible bounce of Exodus; they rip with fiery outrage like Sepultura; and they’re insanely punchy like a Sabbat or Dark Angel, minus the flirtations with death metal of the latter. Plus, let your brain hear it and you’ll start thinking the lead vocals are done by some angrier, distant relative of Mike Muir. When guitarist/vocalist Ed Nicod blurts out any number of his lines about technology running wild, it’s not hard to imagine him wearing a bandana very low on his forehead. It’s a little silly, a lot of fun, and loaded with youthful exuberance.

Plus there’s some great rhythmic variation, shreddy solo sections that know how to change up the mood (the major/minor key shifts during the solo section of “Digital Master”), and more punch than the very punchy name drops in the punchy previous paragraph could possibly convey (seriously, it’s punchy). The album’s only notable flaw is that, at nearly an hour, it sticks around a bit longer than it should. Some songs begin to blend together before the record’s home stretch kicks in, and while they’re all good songs, a few less of the merely good would go a long way towards highlighting the great.

Thankfully, said home stretch is quite strong. The duo of “Concrete Jungle” and the title track levels up the quality and adds slight touches of variety. The former slows down the tempo and enhances the moodiness, calling to mind early 90s Coroner or Anacrusis more than bloodthirsty Brazilian thrash. The latter, meanwhile, pretty much pulls out all of the stops, increasing the technicality, violence, “epic” vibes, eerie melodic touches, and glorious vocal paranoia over nearly eight and a half minutes. There’s even an extended bendy dual lead section that is about as obvious an homage to “Orion” as has ever been put to tape. It’s so obvious and effective that the closing cover of Sepultura’s “Dead Embryonic Cells” – which is played expertly but extremely straight – seems fairly unnecessary, and could have been removed as part of an effort to trim the record a tad.

Even with the slightly bloated nature of the album, Pulse? is a good one, and it’s great knowing that there are still thrash bands out there that can be both violent and a little brainy without losing the fun edge of either. Algebra’s thrash sounds so 80s in both music and lyrical content that it’s a shock not to see a very neon Ed Repka painting adorning the cover. And much like your memories of the 80s, Pulse? is a lot of fun, warts and all.

Posted by Zach Duvall

Last Rites Co-Owner; Senior Editor; Obnoxious overuser of baseball metaphors.

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