The popularity and in turn widespread influence of German speed and thrash metal isn’t as simple to delineate as the appeal of whatever the trust fund babies and partying jocks of lore were doing in the Bay Area in the early eighties. Whereas the most celebrated North American progenitors of thrash metal are touted as originals for simply playing moderately plagiarized hardcore and NWOBHM at greater tempo, what most clearly carried through to the successive generations of underground metal wasn’t much more than the most fashionable and easily replicated guitar progressions and techniques. European thrash metal surely enacted the law of diminishing returns in the same manner and while iteration is no crime in true heavy metal the Germans held on tight to what everyone’s Californian heroes quickly left behind: The attack. Because of this bands like Kreator, Sodom, and Destruction continue to inspire generations of riffcraft that may culturally outlive the contributions of Bay Area thrash in terms of producing notable works. As we move towards the four decade mark from the ‘advent’ of thrash metal and peer into what inspires kids to pick up and riff today the ones that make it to the presses all obsess over the attack of thrash. Chile in particular ‘gets it’ in terms of sheer aggression and waves of dangerous noise and smaller scenes in Greece and Germany uphold what is the real spirit of thrash. One outlier acts as inspiring example of my ramblings in the form of Walkden, England quartet Exxxekutioner.
The first thought I have in analyzing droves of blackened thrash metal is that many of them simply borrow from the progression of “Nuclear Winter” for entire album’s worth of content and I don’t necessarily mean the notes involved but rather the dynamic reveal of the song, the rush of riff, and then the seeming bridge that becomes a ‘breakdown’ of sorts; Likewise other sects follow the higher energy route with the performative aggression of ‘Pleasure to Kill’ and beyond (see: Merciless, Massacra, Entrench, Maligner etc.). The more rare occurrence appears with bands like Minotaur, early Necronomicon, and even Deathhammer who find a balance between both approaches in Destruction‘s middle ground. Exxxekutioner find their own place in the purgatory of bands unable to ‘decide’ on either side of the fence between ranting aggressive technical rushes of riff or the briefly dynamic meter of early Sodom. This means that spikes-and-leather, hellfire and ‘Show No Mercy’ speed metal damnation is the lifestyle they’re selling and what helps ‘Death Sentence’ remain moderately convincing lies within the aforementioned attack they manage.
Though this debut has a ‘formative’ and somewhat pending sound to it at the very least Exxxekutioner operate with the old classics in mind for a record that is about on par with the best of Nocturnal in approximating the rush of classic transitional German speed metal and its quick mutation towards ripping thrash. If you consider the progression of Living Death from ‘Metal Revolution’ towards ‘Killing in Action’ you’ll more or less understand the trip that many speed metal bands took in increasing their attack and in turn ‘modernizing’ for the greater extremity of underground thrash in the late 80’s. What’s that? “Shut up dude, it just sounds like Toxic Holocaust.”? Oh, sure, fair enough at a quick glance that’d be the right categorical implication but these guys (much like Deathhammer and Vomitor) really nail the riff side of things on the early Kreator/Destruction spectrum with fair nods to inbetweeners like Iron Angel as well.
Who needs another one of those? You might be surprised at how much of a ‘riff’ album ‘Death Sentence’ ends up being and it really works in the moment. If it all seems a bit typical I’d disagree in the sense that I personally couldn’t point to a better arranged study of 80’s rhythm guitar techniques (in 2018) outside of maybe ‘Chained to Hell’. Though I will concede that after 5-6 full listens the bigger picture from Exxxekutioner is not a fresh take or particularly memorable outside of the sheer athletic prowess with which they attack the material. I found myself walking away from the album after as I chalked up about ten listens or so and I’d generally recommend it because the lingering feeling that I’d like to return to the riffs of ‘Death Sentence’ remains. For preview I’d suggest “Mass Disorder” for the riffs and “Necromancy” for the strongest and most surfable speed metal kick.
Within the sight of the beast. 3.5/5.0
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