‘Fun’ metal just isn’t my thing. If you make constant jokes in reviews, I’ll stop reading. If you parody shit, I’ll stop buying albums. If I see a band having fun in a video or engaging in dorky in-crowd banter on social media, I’ll probably think twice about attending that show. Why? Never giving into the ‘dad joke’ spectrum of heavy metal will keep you much sharper as the decades pass by. Speed metal, specifically the retro-revisionist style that has propped itself with some strength in the last two decades, is too often a ‘fun’ sort of metal experience that gets a pass for its moderately competitive musical standards. Looking back on the decade long build-up towards their fourth full-length it’d seem that Worcester, Massachusetts speed metal militia Seax have found a golden ratio for their sound that balances their beer-chuggin, ‘flaming bag of poop’ metal-punk spirit with a tighter thrashing performance. They riff more and faster, they shout more and louder.
Formed in 2009 by guitarist Hel (Helgrid, ex-Infernal Devotion, ex-Zircon) Seax would soon include members of Ravage; Ties to that big-sister band remain today as guitarist Nick Izzo provided bass on ‘Fallout Rituals’ after bassist Razzle switched to guitars following the exit of longtime member (and founding Ravage guitarist) Eli Firicano (Iron Will). Seax began as a decidedly easygoing punkish speed metal band with their debut full-length ‘High on Metal (2012) which featured a yet-unseasoned Carmine DeCiccio (ex-Raging Fire) on vocals, who exited to form Black Sabre around 2013. The bands sound would change drastically when second vocalist Steve McArdle (Sküll Hammer) stepped in for ‘To the Grave’ (2014). Though the guitar work would begin to tighten and improve at this point McArdle‘s vocals were flat in a bad MD.45 sort of way, that’d brought the identity of the band into question at that point. Thankfully DeCiccio would return for ‘Speed Metal Mania’ (2016) and the Seax sound would truly solidify and begin to develop with some room for improvement. For my own standards ‘Fallout Rituals’ is the first repeatable and effective release from the band that reaches above stock-standard fare in terms of musical personality and much of that comes from the shrieking affect of DeCiccio.
Since you’d be leagues in the wrong direction taking Ravage as a cue for Seax‘ current sound I’d suggest a world tour in terms of their fellow Exciter influenced speed-metallers such as Gatekrashör, Ranger‘s ‘Speed & Violence’ and Toxik Attack along with some basic shared attributes with Sentinel Beast, S.D.I., and early Razor. Depending on your taste that’ll all sound pretty standard but I think DeCiccio‘s vocals, combined with a much more powerful production sound, nearly provide that extra bump of distinction that made Dark Angel‘s ‘We Have Arrived’ and Exodus‘ debut stand out. The gang-shouted vocals, burps, shrieks and wails all amount to a good time but ‘Fallout Rituals’ ultimately sounds like a speed metal band that are consciously fighting the urge to go full-bore party thrash.
If you were to drop into any single track on ‘Fallout Rituals’ you’d likely be satisfied as I was in previewing a few random cuts. Sharp guitar tone, shrieking vocals, a little bit of that punkish Municipal Waste-core chunk, and some well placed gang-shouts all serve to dress up very basic structures with tension and free-wheeling attitude. “Winds of Atomic Death” is a great example of this with its basic late 80’s hardcore progression that comes in fists flinging and with DeCiccio in fine form, in fact this was one of my initial highlights until I’d spun through about 4-5 fill listens and it began to blur together with the majority of the tracks on the album, which feature similar pace and riff approach but are differentiated by solos, vocal effects and different sorts of breaks into intensity. By the time “Riders of the Oldworld” cranks the speed up towards the end it begins to feel like half the songs on the album do this and as a result it all mushed together into a pretty standard spin.
There are some moderately catchy songs here that save the experience just as it begins to sound polished and rote. I’d point towards “Interceptor” as an effective track once it hits beyond the first minute, most any classic speed metal fan will be pleased enough with the energetic style and wild vocal work that highlights “Killed by Speed” and “Rituals”. How the rest of the album will stick in your mind might depend on how you feel about classic speed metal versus newer interpretations of it, I felt a great deal of ‘Fallout Rituals’ was numbingly repetitive but not offensive for it. Moderate recommendation, might’ve sounded like I was ragging on ’em but Seax are a good time and this is their best record to date. For preview “Rituals” is an exciting entry point, and “Winds of Atomic Death” should provide some motivation to see how they deal with variation from there.
Bodies burning everywhere 3.25/5.0
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