The history of heavy metal has never been more kind to the supposed hangers-on of the mid-to-late 1980’s thrash metal boon than here in the midst of that fandom reaching an inch beyond middle age, where the supposed ‘second tier’, trash-bags and posers of yesterday are largely clarified as normal folks having a go of it in hindsight. Lancashire, England thrashers Xentrix hadn’t really gotten the bug until the latest of 80’s and as a result their ‘classic thrash’ status always came with the caveat that they were a bit too Bay Area and very much a catchy, ‘arena ready’ affair. Everything Heathen, Metallica, and Testament had pieced together almost a decade earlier (and some’d say perfected) saw albums like ‘Shattered Existence’ (1989) almost appearing to imitate and dilute that work to an accessible standard. Of course time equalizes and they really were just strong metal albums from a band that was uniquely straightforward for a late 80’s Roadracer signing. Xentrix would reach a real peak with their second album ‘For Whose Advantage?’ (1990). I’m not going to be kind here, their next two albums ‘Kin’ (1992) and the horrendously fumbling Machine Head-alike ‘Scourge’ (1996) were both shockingly shit, forgettable trash that appeared aimed towards commercial success without a clue how to get there. They’d called it quits by 1997 and there’d be no re-emergence until 2005 when the ‘Scourge’ line-up would reunite beyond some remaster/reissue releases and decide to continue under the name Hellfighter for a record that’d come and go back in 2010. The band would pick the Xentrix name back up in 2013 and ‘Bury the Pain’ has come six years later with the original line-up minus original vocalist Chris Astley. The idea was to circle back around to their original sound and they’ve generally succeeded in sounding like an approximation of a late 80’s Bay Area thrash metal band.
Coming off of the eclectic and occasionally confounding eccentricities of Death Angel‘s latest record there is some general relief in the bloody skeletal arms of ‘Bury the Pain’. The spirit of thrash metal in the 1980’s was sold as protest music, a revolution of young men who’d reach millions with their chunky, moshable riffs and increasingly competitive performances so, hearing folks in their forties and fifties strangling out music that is at least on par with the energy and messaging of their past is inspiring at the very least. Have they recreated the accessible (in hindsight) thrash magic of those first two full-lengths? Well, not completely. Yes, ‘Bury the Pain’ goes hard and has that preachy Testament-esque spirit in droves but they’ve created an album that rides the fence between ‘For Whose Advantage?’ the the somewhat gawking pulled-punches of ‘Kin’. What I refer to as the classic thrash metal ‘tunnel’ is created here where the album certainly knows that a shouted semi-melodic vocal is director to a riff and solo fed affair that is no frills and no experimentation throughout. Focus on the guitar tone, the composition, and the flailing lead guitars will give way to a sort of focus that only thrash metal can provide. This is the most universal mark of pure thrash metal from my own perspective but the general sound of the album is cue enough for the initiated. So, at this point without a doubt we have a bullet-spraying bonafide mid-to-fast paced riffing thrash metal album on our hands and that is an accomplishment to set on for a moment at least. Good on ’em, shit’s heavy and has the right damned attitude.
The rest of the experience is going to boil down to taste in Bay Area, UK (and some German) thrash metal over the years. Not all riffs and vocalists are created equal and though I do appreciate the small Heathen and Megadeth flare-ups that find their way into these compositions they do often reach into the post-“black album” era of death defiance groups who’d live off of fumes as groove metal quickly arrived. I have never been a fan of Testament‘s 90’s material much less the peripheral acts like Sacred Reich, (later) Nuclear Assault, Defiance, Slammer, and hey I could name 10-20 similar bands from every developed nation of the late 1980’s. Nobody blames those bands for sucking it up with groove metal hell, even Forbidden fell victim to it, but I don’t appreciate any music that evokes that era and sound. I’m that picky about some of that stuff nonetheless and I’m guessing the general thrash fandom has their own preferences in every direction too. How does this apply to ‘Bury the Pain’? The vocals just don’t work for me in terms of tone. The performance is tight and his capability isn’t in question, it just sounds too much like Chuck Billy and the similarity bleeds into the cadence of the album a bit too often. For all of that whinging I did ultimately like this album without completely dying for it.
The deep-pocketed rhythms and harmonized leads of the title track opens the album with a real bang and pure headbanging attitude that keeps punching out some pretty sharp riffs. The first standouts for my taste were “Bleeding Out” and “Let the World Burn” and from there the album pecks through some more straightforward tracks that I ended up liking the most in the long run as they weren’t pushing out as much attitude as they were searching for variations that’d entertain. “World of Mouth” is simple but effective in structure, “Deathless and Divine” shreds to a reasonable degree, and I really liked the build towards the end of “Evil By Design”. The record doesn’t really wind down despite its nearly hour length but I did appreciate that Xentrix could keep the energy consistent throughout without resorting to balladry or too many gimmicky builds. The duo of Andy Sneap producing and Russ Russell mastering goes a long way to hit the intended sound but keep it modern and dynamic enough to be worth listening to. This gives an otherwise average thrash metal album an edge over similar ‘comeback’ metal we’re all so well accustomed to today and the choice of pretty striking artwork does help a bit too. At the end of the day ‘Bury the Pain’ is a fine high-gloss rendering of thrash metal from the era Xentrix came up in and you’ll have to decide for yourself if the act of thrashing itself is entertaining enough to make up for the well-trodden guitar work and plain vocal performances. I’m giving moderate recommendation of ‘Bury the Pain’ because it is a fine example of thrash metal, it is well produced and a respectful jog back to that ’88-’92 era where the band were at their peak. For preview I’d suggest “Bleeding Out”, “Let the World Burn” and “Deathless and Divine” as a fine enough introduction to the whole of the album.
A man without a mind! 3.75/5.0
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