WAR WITHOUT END: WARBRINGER CLIMB TO THE TOP OF THE THRASH REVIVAL
In a November 2007 Decibel article about the current thrash revival scene, Warbringer vocalist John Kevill told Kevin Stewart-Panko that “I don’t put any politics in my lyrics… Our music is about the riffs and a barrage of senseless violence and evil.” And even though it’s hard to imagine that politics really have nothing to do with the sudden increase of bands that look and sound like they just stepped out of a time machine from the Bay Area around the time Cliff Burton died, the point remains: these bands are out to have fun, dude. The fact that thrash has already been so readily absorbed into metal’s bloodstream is beside the point; the fact that so many bands have figured out a way to fuse it with death and hardcore does not mean the three genres must now remain forever fused.
So I’m pleased to announce that Warbringer’s debut full length, War Without End, more than lives up to the promise of One by One the Wicked Fall (which you can download for free, if for some stupid reason you haven’t already done so, by clicking on that banner to your left), and moves them to the head of the modern thrash class.
A lot of these incredibly young dudes’ success has to do with the fact that Warbringer don’t seem obviously fixated on any one of their elder statesmen; in other words, rather than, say, always sounding Slayer or always sounding like Testament, they are capable of sounding like Testament and Slayer and Metallica and Exodus and Death Angel and Megadeth, and all of your other favorite old school thrash bands. In fact, they have cycle through any number of these bands within one song. Seriously: in one round of dueling solos, guitarists Adam Carroll and John Laux can sound like some kind of bizarro-world dream team, like Kirk Hammett and Kerry King temporarily ditching Hanneman and Hetfield to work with one another instead, or a Megadeth in which Gary Holt got Marty Friedman’s gig (“At the Crack of Doom” already has a special place in my heart, both for Carroll and Laux’s guitar work, and for the first great-title-for-a-metal song of 2008.).
But a lot of Warbringer’s success also stems from the fact that they always just sound so evil and crushing; drummer Ryan Bates and bassist Andy Laux pummel the listener as though he or she were a mole in the Whack-A-Mole game, and where so many thrash revivalists opt for vocals of the Exodus/Anthrax stuffy-nose variety, Kevill’s throaty screams (check out that wail at the start of “Born of the Ruins!”) sound like furious battle cries; in fact my biggest complaint about this album is that Kevill is buried just a little lower in the mix than I’d like him.
But it’s the only real slip-up in Bill Metoyer’s production and mixing. Metoyer, you may have heard by now, has previously worked with Slayer, Corrosion of Conformity, Armored Saint, Sacred Reich, DRI, Morbid Angel, and a host of other cool bands, so the guy obviously goes a long way towards giving the band a very genuine sound; in other words, I think you could probably convince someone that this was recorded around the same time as Bonded by Blood.
It’s still hard for me to believe that there’s nothing political about War Without End – why are Warbringer one of the few new thrash bands to have a giant fucking monster tank on their cover, instead of zombies or Hell or some shit? – but I also know that Kevill and company probably wouldn’t want me to think about it too much. War Without End is a fucking fun album, and one that all thrash fans owe to themselves to seek out.
(four out of five horns)