Everybody loves a comeback story. However, to brand 2021 as a “comeback” year for thrash would be doing the genre a disservice. There are always at the very least a handful of thrash releases a year worth their salt in capturing the energy of those early days or twisting the formulae into some mind-bending high-speed trip. This current Year Of Our Unholy Lord just appears to be bring a little extra sauce and smearing it all across the exquisite platter of baby back ribs that makes up the thrashisphere of 2021. Just give a listen to the likes of Paranorm, Cryptosis, Fuego Eterno, Obsolete, Steel Bearing Hand, Demiser, Lucifuge, Evil, Significant Point, or keep your ears out for the upcoming third albums by now-vets Nekromantheon and Vulture to get an idea of how far the thrash muse is lighting the grill under the butts of these hi-top sporting, speed-obsessed riff jockeys. And where better to look for hyper-intensive, primal, true-to-roots ripping thrash than Central or South America? Sure, there are superscenes in the likes of Germany or Japan, but does anyone hit thrash quite as hard as Latin America? For the ratio of physical area to devoted heavy metal disciples, the countries bordering and beneath the equator in the Western Hemisphere have had it dialed since day one. Perhaps it’s the hotter climate – both ecologically and politically – that fuels such staunch devotion. Regardless of where it stems from, something about South America has just understood fast, loud, and heavy music ever since pioneering Brazilian acts like Dorsal Atlântica and Sepultura turned Latin America’s heavy metal dial up a few notches, creating some of the most primal and visceral thrash on the planet.
The bulk of the album is all-killer-no-filler riff ‘n’ lead salad coated in spicy buffalo production. The meat is sandwiched between the light and complementary acoustic passages of an intro and outro, leaving about 33 minutes of searing hot steel to whiplash the listener’s auditory taste buds into a frenzy. The evil of early Slayer, the quasi-brilliant booze-riddled savant vocal punches of Exodus, the unmatched speed and aggression of Kreator, the blackened char of early Sepultura – Speed Command channel the inspirations of the greats into their own sound. Familiar, yet brimming with energy and bursts of inspiration, the thrash flows freely into a soundtrack for an offensive from Hell. Making use of every bit of the fretboard, the interplay between the guitars shifts between gritty palm mutes and a thick, searing lead that jumps between blitzkrieg licks and slamming that whammy bar hard enough to lift the bridge of the guitar more than a few centimeters off of the body on “Wolf Division.” The beauty of the seamless interweaving of the guitars is that it always feels like there is something happening. Just as the hooks of the riff are settling in on “Lethal Injection,” (that dun-nun-nun! dun-NUN-NUN! in the lead is just so perfectly evil) the song shifts into a fresh onslaught of riffage over the busy pistons firing off in the drums. The solos shred face, bubbling and bursting, diving and scattering like an aerial onslaught of shells and high-calibre bullets.
Speaking of the rhythm section, the percussion litters the war-torn battlefields of Hell with a scattering of fills and aggressive use of the double bass that blankets the album in a hail of mortar fire. It’s not all chaotic blasting, though. There’s a measure of control to the madness, hitting the turn-on-dime accents on “Violent Force” and especially “Chainsaw Evil Night.” While the bass stays fairly comfortably in the pocket (no bass player is currently credited, so I’m assuming one of the guitarists handled bass duties here), it flexes the tone muscles on the galloping sections of “Lethal Injection” and “Pesticide.” Chonky and coated with overdrive, it’s got that “slap you across the face” pop to it that simply girdles the loins with the reverberated wound steel of the strings.
If you use an exclamation mark at the end of every sentence, it loses its impact and importance! Speed Command get this concept in the vocal department, making sparing use of gang vocals to smash through the attack of lead vocalist/guitarist Germán “Volknoz” Mulc. His noted performance touches on the extreme end of the thrash spectrum, the slightly blackened edge making him sound like a rabid hellhound alternating between aggressive growls and blood-curdling shrieks. From the big moments, such as the, “ooooOOOOOOOOAAAAAHHHHHH,” of “Wolf Division,” to the evil little yelps at the end of the verses and into the ball-clenching, “Evil never DIIIIIIIIIIIIES,” on “Chainsaw Evil Night.” Great song name, by the way. The most prominent use of gang vocals, however, occurs with the infectious chorus of “Falcons Of Death.” Even so, they’re in and out like the quick shot of a syringe in the arm. Outside of the “Falcons” refrain, they pop up at the most unexpected moments, declaring the mantra, “Bonded by death!” (again, on the ever-so-sweetly titled “Chainsaw Evil Night”) and exiting as quickly as they enter, hitting with cohesive surgical precision amongst the battlefield of the soundscape. Volknoz’s “oughs” and “ughs” and “aughs” punctuate the riff changes with Tom G. Warrior disgust, hitting just off time enough to add credibility to the live feeling of the album.
To break Vestiges Of Peace down into the sum of its parts seems like an injustice, particularly when its greatest strength comes from its overall cohesiveness. Speed Command have a knack for keeping the serrated blades hooked deep into the attention centers of the thrash-addled brain, be it through scorching hot licks, mean-ass riffs, blistering fills, or charred, war-chanting vocals, and delivering it all in a tight package that’ll claw at the hearts of thrash maniacs everywhere. Be it keepers of the old guard or young cats looking for the next new fix, something about Speed Command affixes itself to a timeless essence, making Vestiges Of Peace a debut that captures the spirit of thrash with the same energy and ferociousness as if it were recorded in 1987.
Unfortunately for those on the western side of the globe, Vestiges Of Peace is currently only available on CD via Carnal Beast and requires exorbitant shipping prices outside of Japan. Luckily, tapes are coming in early May via Sick Rites Records out of Chile, so hopefully some format will be feasibly (and economically) available soon. Keep your eyes peeled on Speed Command, this album is worth picking up in whichever format you can get your hands on.