On their second independently released full-length in two years Jefferson City, Missouri thrashers Degrave achieve strides beyond a previously low set bar. Whether this self-titled album is baked enough for the big leagues I dunno but, the leap from the demo quality jank of ‘Full Tilt’ (2017) is at least notable. Influenced in equal amount between classic thrash and it’s modern progressive variant Degrave not only stretch their abilities towards greater ambition on ‘Degrave’ but they find an interesting niche worth gestating; A mix of psychedelic and stoner metal ideas creep into the more interesting guitar work and this will be the main point of interest for folks who aren’t already easily entertained by esoteric underground thrash metal.
The best kind of independent release is often the one that comes in humble packaging and with some of the learning curve still ‘in-process’ in terms of production and recording. ‘Degrave’ finds the band in better harmony with their second drummer and his skill brings much needed speed and capability beyond ‘Full Tilt’, yet some oddly ‘off’ timing here and there leans toward a feeling of an late 80’s thrash band trying out death metal rhythms for the first time. Folks who love stuff like Ripped‘s ‘Blotter’ or Psychopath‘s ‘Making the Transition’ should find some light interest in Degrave‘s second album for it’s slightly ‘off’ sound and aggression but with the caveat that these folks come from Megadeth and Vektor fandom more than the deeply hidden underground jank-thrash of the early 90’s.
As I’d alluded earlier the groove of southern rock and stoner metal helps to perk up this record’s sometimes lagging pace; “Ascension” begins with a big wagging stoner groove before ripping through an early Vektor-meets-Sadus sort of track but “All You Need” and “Shades of Black” are more involved and obvious examples of the style they’re touching upon here. I feel a sort of clairvoyance when I hear these tracks, struck with visions of their thrash metal ambitions melting away over time, and that knack for stoner grooves finding a greater throne. If they develop both mammoth grooves and technical thrash ripping, this could be everyone’s new favorite band in a matter of years. It works as is but I see greater potential going forward if they slough off some of the Pantera and Metallica informed thumb twiddling.
In appraising a record like ‘Degrave’ I remain on a precarious fence between damning it’s easily overlooked faults and praising an admittedly rough ride. No doubt my fellow thrash fans will enjoy the ride and be able to ignore the shoddy cover art (would look great on a cassette, though), the slightly off timing that crops up at odd times, and the home-baked feeling of the record. Amateur artistic value doesn’t indicate mediocrity but rather an independence that I respect; At the end of my valuation I felt the ride is actually pretty damn good despite Degrave kinda missing all of the ‘style points’ they need to keep up with in the high standard world of modern thrash metal. Because they’ve realized less than half of their potential and already sound sharp as fuck, I can easily recommend Degrave as a band to watch for fans of modern progressive thrash metal.
Hands of fate grasp, and tighten. 3.25/5.0
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