It’ll take about six minutes with San Antonio, Texas based thrashers Aggravator to figure them out and a total of ~18 minutes to fully dive into this latest self-titled EP. The indoctrination will be fast and easy if you’re familiar with pre-1990 Kreator and ‘Seasons in the Abyss’ era Slayer as those heralded classics have long served as the core foundational influences of the band’s sound since forming in 2008. If you’ve any familiarity with their second full-length, ‘Sterile Existence’ (2016), the tone and attack of this EP shouldn’t by any great shock. ‘Aggravator’ serves as the first official release since Aggravator‘s longtime lead guitarist (Jesse Lopez, also of Black Jackal) passed away in 2018. They soldier on throughout this EP, achieving their tightest and most brutal recording to date with some intensifying focus on pensive, morbid thrash songs in the tradition of ye olde threshold between 80’s death metal and early 90’s thrash metal precision.
One of my favorite thrash metal records of all time is No Return‘s ‘Psychological Torment’ and I’d felt like Aggravator channels some of those moderately unpredictable riff changes alongside some pretty sharp Slayer-isms for the opening salvo of “Desensitized Devotion”. “Redundancy” tells a similar story but here the good old Kreator thread kicks up again and this has been a staple of their sound since inception; As much as I’d like to compare this heartily with a band like Hypnosia because of that influence, the heavier focus on classic Slayer rhythms leans the vibe towards Solstice and Demolition Hammer levels of heavy. “Carnal Forms” switches gears slightly with a track that must’ve been inspired by ‘A Vision of Misery’ (or, just Sadus) on some level as its crawling bursts of riff and fretless bass escalations add some venom to the records accomplished fast-thrashing second half. Throughout the whole of the full listen it becomes clear that Aggravator are bent on crafting more complex and nuanced riff ideas, stretching out architectural builds atop jagged ‘arena thrash’ breakdowns for a wailing hit of brutal thrash in the spirit of ’91 but with the fidelity of 2019.
You’re picking this record up for the riffs and Aggravator‘d be a bit dead in the eyes if not for the effective snarl and rip of vocalist/guitarist Derek Jones who brings an intensity to rival Morbid Saint but with a certain amount of control to better shape verses with. They’ve not written a mess of riff salad but there is a ‘classic thrash’ tunnel vision within these compositions that is ultra-traditional and rarely steps into any real bout of pure death metal. The final track, “Suspended Agonal Breathing” serves as a brief accumulation of the ‘classic thrash’ informed style that Aggravator have always lead with while showcasing a brilliant balance of complexity, heaviness, and that evil attack that this kind of thrash needs. It isn’t the most original or complex outing in the history of thrash metal but it is delivered with a furious conviction that I greatly appreciated. Moderately high recommendation. For preview purposes I’d suggest starting with a pairing of “Desensitized Devotion” and “Carnal Forms” and then “Suspended Agonal Breathing” if you’re still on the fence at that point.
Coils of the serpent unwind. 4.0/5.0
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