Contributed by Jake Holmes
For those of you who have been keeping up with my column, you’ve probably been made aware of my extra-curricular activities of playing in a death metal and a black metal band. And while my journey through metal’s history has led me to the more extreme side of things, I still have fond memories of how I was first introduced to this music that would completely encompass my life — thrash metal. As alluded to in my review of Slayer’s performance at Fun Fun Fun Fest in 2013, my first step into metal was through the thrash metal of the first three Metallica albums, Slayer, Anthrax, and other basics that would give way to faster, more violent thrash, which would give way to death metal and so on and so forth in rough chronological order. Unfortunately, it’s also a metal form that has suffered greatly in terms of contemporaries keeping up with the classics in a fate that death and black metal haven’t suffered. This peaked with the “retro thrash” invasion of several years ago that showed a legion of acts who somehow made playing at lightning-fast speed seem boring, and with a few exceptions, there’s not many from that wave that I would ever listen to when I could be listening to Rigor Mortis, Exhorder, or Slaughter (to provide a few examples you should absolutely listen to). Whether it’s the modern production or beating the same ideas into the ground (see also “thrashing for the sake of thrash”), modern thrash, for all its speed, just hasn’t kept up.
This brings me to Bangladesh’s Enmachined, who provided their debut demo “Thrash Assault” to Southern Decay for review. There are three songs on this demo, so we can look at each one individually. “Loggerhead” initiates the thrashing with a mid-paced number that features twin-guitar riffing and some interesting harmonies, although it’s nothing that hasn’t been done by numerous bands from thrash’s past. The demo hits its first hurdle in the form of the curious vocal style that appears prominently throughout “Loggerhead”, and as we’ll soon discover, the demo as a whole. The singing on the “Thrash Assault” demo is a bizarre blend of a bark and a throaty half-singing that brings Overkill’s Blitz Ellsworth to mind, albeit lacking control to the detriment of the demo as a whole. This strange ululation is neither melodic enough to sing along to, nor aggressive enough to add a violence to the music as a whole, resulting in a negative impact on “Thrash Assault”.
The title track (“Thrash Assault”, if you have the memory of a goldfish) follows “Loggerhead” and manages to pick up the pace after a somewhat rough start to the demo. The nimble riffing recalls certain moments from Death Angel’s “The Ultra-Violence”, and while there are moments of promise (mainly in the form of the instrumental guitar gymnastics), the songwriting again doesn’t display anything that hasn’t been brought to the thrash table before. I would say that it is the most energetic song on the demo, and it would have likely served better as the introductory piece on “Thrash Assault” due to its speedy tempo and precisely-played guitar parts.
“Piranha” (not an Exodus cover) begins with a distorted bass riff and an ominous lead line that quickly gives way to a slower groove that is maintained for the entirety of the song. Instrumentally, the song is relatively inoffensive; however, the wailing of the vocalist is jarring and ill-fitting with the chunky riffing, and the mid-to-slow pace of the song fails to retain interest through the song’s four-minute and forty-five second runtime. The singer provides numerous falsetto wails, which is a style that is very difficult to pull off if your name isn’t Kim Petersen (King Diamond to most), and Enmachined’s constant caterwauling fails to contribute much to the atmosphere of the instrumental accompaniment. Perhaps this should be something that all bands should keep in mind — if your song shares a title with one of the greatest songs of its genre, it needs to be one hell of a face-ripper (personally I would just advise choosing a more original title, but that’s just a personal opinion).
Production-wise, this demo is very clean, with each instrument being given appropriate spot in the mix. The guitars have a modern crunch to them and the lead playing has a solid tone to it that is responsible for the most enjoyable moments on “Thrash Assault.” As one could conclude from this review so far, the vocals are at the forefront, although as we’ve mentioned this is not to the demo’s benefit. Bass is audible throughout the demo, with it having a fuller presence than the rest of the songs on “Piranha”. The backbone of “Thrash Assault”, the drumming, also has a notable place, with a crisp snare and overall positive playing. For its flaws, the way that this demo is produced is beneficial as a whole, with this style of thrash metal being served well through a cleaner production.
Although Enmachined have their hearts in the right place, the execution is ultimately lacking, and I wouldn’t be able to recommend this over any release from the golden age of thrash metal. If “Thrash Assault” happens to get your head banging, then by all means enjoy, but I wouldn’t be able to join in. As a side note, if you’re a thrash kid at heart who is interested in some local talent, I’d recommend checking out Austin’s Birth A.D. and Killeen’s Hexlust, two bands who are carrying on the thrash lineage that both pay respect to the ways of old while injecting new venom into the genre. Fans of black/thrash can also explore Austin’s Widower, who are quickly proving to be fully capable of the kind of face-ripping furor that speed metal needs. In the meantime, if you want to check out Enmachined, you can go to the Salute Records Bandcamp to hear the whole demo at the link below:
Jake Holmes is a Central Texas heavy metal writer who lives by the pen and will (likely) die by the sword. Originally from a suburban town outside of North Austin, Holmes moved to San Antonio during his college years. After several years and thousands of miles driven to see shows in San Antonio and Austin, he returned to the Austin area due to his graduation and continued to see as many shows as humanly possible. His interests include going to shows, blasting Carnivore as loudly as possible on the way to shows, and sleeping upon his return to his home from shows. His “dislikes” include hearing loss, traffic, and unnecessary bonus tracks on album reissues.
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