By Mark Steele
Out on May 15th through
As many metal fans are aware over the past 4 to 5 years, thrash metal has returned back with a vengeance. This has caused divided opinion; even I was somewhat sceptical when I first heard the likes of Municipal Waste, SSS, and Gama Bomb etc. At first, I thought “Oh hear we go again, money for old rope” and all that. However, being the open minded sort of guy that I am I try to keep my fingers on the pulse, otherwise you could find yourself in a 'musical timewarp'. The more I listened, the more I liked and was drawn into it head first – and I'm glad that it did.
Aggravator, hailing from San Antonio in Texas, are one of a large swarm of bands that have joined the armies of the 'neo thrash renaissance' that is doing the rounds. The band comprises of a four piece with Mike Cortes (drums), Derek Jones (guitar and vocals), Tristian Hernandez (bass), and Jesse Lopez (guitars). The band have previously released the Age of Combat album and Born in Uniform demo – to critical acclaim amongst underground circles – and are certainly worth tracking down in their own right and checking out. The material shows that they're a very strong force with their composition and song writing, and have a fresh and immediately catchy sound – with a sense of rawness and brutality that brings to mind bands such as Sadus, Sacred Reich and Nuclear Assault that has slight death metal overtones reminding me of Sodom, Kreator and Death.
One thing that is a significant improvement over the earlier material is the recording quality. Their previous works had a bright and treble high mastering, which despite sounding clear probably sounded a bit thin in places which may have lost some impact. However, with this new release, Populace Destructor, that has improved significantly. The sound is much richer, the bass drums have a more dramatic kick and the bass guitar playing has a glorious groove that underpins everything very nicely indeed. The album is pretty much an unrelenting thrash attack from start to finish. 'Aestus Mortis' starts with a slow bass solo as an intro, which then builds into 'Born In Uniform'; a full speed thrash attack that has a riff style reminiscent of early Slayer and Megadeth – especially with the shredding and lead solos. The vocal style is more of a death metal flavoured bark, with adds to the raw grittiness of the tracks, reminding me of vintage Sodom – especially noted in the track 'Isolated Despair'; a tune filled with cyclical guitar patterns that is irresistibly catchy.
So far, I have heard quite a few of these 'neo thrash' bands and many of them are strong at their musical game and are highly enjoyable. However, this latest release is filled with ridiculously catchy tunes, perfect solos, and excellent bass guitar and drum work that I can't stop listening to. Each one of the tracks is sufficiently strong, and I honestly can't find a single duff track on it. In fact, when I first acquired this for review and was checking it out on my travels, I played the album twice over as I found it to be that good. The album has a sense of rawness and passion, that is comparable to the classics like Nuclear Assault's Game Over, and other classics of the genre.
Until I hear anything better, this could probably be the best 'neo thrash' album of the year – I can confidently say that it's that good. Buy this, or be a tone deaf root vegetable.