Looking at Spellforger’s name, logo and giant lava-snake cover art, it would be fair for you to mistakenly think this is a power metal album. Hell, take a look at Paladin’s cover in last week’s review and that thought seems even more reasonable. You’ll notice that Captain didn’t write this review, however, so the chances of this being a triumphant blast of power exuberance is slim to none. While Spellforger plies its wares at the thrash marketplace, what they do have in common with power metal is an understanding of how to make music that is over-the-top fun within their chosen genre.
What makes their music even more fun is that the production and overall approach to songwriting screams of 80’s “evil” that bands like Venom and Bathory perfected in their early works. That classic sense of wickedness is so strong they even threw in some patented metal-guy villain laughs in “Curse of the Lycans.” Upholders of Evil also takes a wise cue from legendary releases like Reign in Blood by unleashing all its fiery fury in 21 minutes allowing you to wreck your neck just long enough to not need hospitalization immediately after.
Outside of the brief ominous intro track, the remainder of this EP aims to cut your brakes and have you crash into the pit headfirst at full speed. Invoker (guitars), Lord Tchort (drums) and Horrifier (bass) all play their instruments with a sense of reckless abandon that still manages to be tight with a splash of technicality and a helping heap of Teutonic aggression. I already mentioned Middernacht’s implementation of Araya highs, which appear in multiple tracks, but his overall approach follows similar pacing to the Slayer legend with a bit more gruffness.
Unsurprisingly, Invoker’s guitar work is the star of this EP. Every song features multiple ripping riffs that will tickle your Id and each one has its own character. “Pestilentia” has a riff where the final note does a nifty little twiddle as if the guitar string was being hit with a Taser while “Curse of the Lycan” shows his ability to add a traditional metal undercurrent to the almighty thrash riff. Not to be outdone by what Last Rites is generally impressed with, Invoker also unleashes leads that are stronger than that giant snake on the cover. “Lord of Possession” is only four-minutes long and still manages to offer a full minute of finger-flaying lead work that shreds, weeps and soars. Come to Upholders of Evil to bang your head, stay for the melting of your brain.
Do you know who else is absolutely killer on this album? Drummer Lord Tchort, that’s who. This guy blasts, pummels, rolls and bashes with the best of them. Once again, I point you to “Curse of the Lycans” which opens with a rolling fill and sees him relentlessly battering the kit for the remainder of the song. He knows when to simply work cymbals to ride out behind a powerful riff and when to bash across the kit end-to-end to add the perfect amount of thunder to the guitar’s lightning.
For a future full-length, Spellforger may need to work on incorporating a bit more tempo variety. For now, this absolutely relentless EP is the perfect slab of thrash madness that feels at once classic and modern. Indonesia is certainly more known for the roughly 132 new brutal slam bands that it pumps out every 60 seconds, but we should all be thrilled that Spellforger found their own voice that can help put their country’s scene on the map for an even broader metal audience.