‘WAKING INTO NIGHTMARES’: TOTAL WARBRINGER
When people talk about neo-thrash bands like Warbringer, their words tend to carry a hint of disdain. I concede that it’s hard not to mention what they are (neo-Bay Area Thrash) before saying how good they are (extremely). But to brand Warbringer (or Municipal Waste) fetishizers of a bygone era implies something vaguely untrustable, beyond a mere affection for the Thrash idiom. And it’s true, there’s little about Warbringer that suggests originality. All the same, debut album War Without End and now the Gary Holt-produced Waking Into Nightmares are too awesome to be the creation of some tribute band; it’s simply not possible that Warbringer is comprised of five masters of mimicry. Rather, it’s clear they feel that Bay Area bands did shit right. And now Warbringer does, too.
But it wasn’t until now that any of this could be firmly argued. War Without End came out just last year, but Warbringer is already eons tighter, heavier, and catchier than 12 months and like 70,000 shows ago. There’s no shortage of energy at any of Nightmares‘ 40 minutes, which says a lot about the work of a band showing no aversion to unhurried instrumental passages. It also speaks volumes about vocalist John Kevill (both kill and evil appear in his name — that rules), who spends much of Nightmares precision bombing between two guitarists both clearly enjoying a hot streak, not to mix metaphors. Anyway, the instant it was announced that Gary Holt (Exodus) would be producer, we could draw conclusions with some accuracy about the sound (like the last few Exodus records), but Nightmares is equally defined by stylistic nods to Kreator and deranged, speedy Iron Maiden-isms.
And when we talk about energy, it’s the little touches: After the first chorus on “Forgotten Dead,” out rips a furious mini-solo a la “E.vil N.ever D.ies”. (Speaking of solos, at least three of them sound downright celebratory despite Nightmares’ otherwise bleak tone.) Meanwhile, Ben Bennett’s dissonant, honking bass on “Abandoned By Time” makes me think less of Tom Araya. In fact, Bennett is the band’s new secret weapon, turning in a couple tasteful solos (!) plus John Tardy-esque vocals (!!) on “Shadow From The Tomb.” Elsewhere, eerie instrumental “Nightmare Anatomy” might’ve appeared on Forbidden’s Twisted Into Form or, minus the always-soloing Alex Skolnick, The New Order by Testament. But Warbringer’s closest relative may be Sweden’s The Crown, with whom they share a knack for emphatic performance of mega-riffs. After all, great metal bands like Warbringer live and die by their riffs. So will I.
Anso DF is a former music journalist who’ll see you at the Whisky next week and on daily Metal news column Hipsters Out Of Metal!