‘Kill ‘Em All’ has, for decades, been the exact right introductory dose of opiatic heirophony for distraught punk children tired of going the speed limit, god-damning the slow ball-busting pace of life throughout their infancy. Psych, though, it was never designed to be enough mayhem for one lifetime but rather a hole in the wall that’d require a community of mortars to follow-up. ‘Bonded by Blood’ was (for some) the bridge that’d kick that charismatic electricity up tenfold, deepening the dependence enough to keep the faith beyond the generational verge that’d stymied speed metal addiction in the 1990’s towards a truly undying thread. Today speed metal is split between obtusely maintained 80’s classicist thought, and the context-void cronyism of ultra-adaptive speed metal that builds its DNA from the corpses beyond the millennium. Radiation, be it perpetuated by the long sickened die-hard or forward-thinking madness, in the hands of successors with freshly blown minds yet does little to perpetuate the body-shaking high of the founders. As pre-’86 thrash reaches well beyond its expected half-life, nostalgia no longer applies! What fuels this act of thrashing, actual thrashing, is the blood-spraying from the necks of new sacrifices along the way — The addiction rages on with or without the ‘classics’ in mind and somewhere in the last two decades Canada as a whole began to function solely as farmlands for the production of world class ‘pedestrian’ thrash kids. Québécois rippers Warsenal are the exception to the apocalyptic binary vision of speed metal I’d posit, a clanking of swords between the old /pre-’85 or die/ energetics and evolved methodology since, a retro-futuristic medium meant to rip open old wounds and pack them with new salt. Their second album ‘Feast Your Eyes’ shreds, in fact it feels like it never fuckin’ stops shredding to the point of creating a thrillingly delirious extension of speed metal that reaches the misanthropic fervor of Coroner (or, Vektor) as often as it calls outright for banging your head against the stage.
The spirit of this ‘speed metal’ thing is the root of my own passion in heavy music and exactly the sort of energy I look for in good-assed guitar music and Warsenal communicate the soul of the sub-genre with immediacy as ‘Feast Your Eyes’ rips itself open. The studded and bullet-belted tonal bodies of Ranger, Seax, Antichrist, and Vulture, could all combine into one massive standard-tuned tank-mode Megazord and I dunno if I’d notice. I’m not saying they’re all the same but if that playlist was set to random with Warsenal‘s ‘Barn Burner’ (2015) thrown in it’d all bleed together pretty quick. ‘Feast Your Eyes’ rips a few steps outside of that box, enough to stand out amongst their peers and far enough to leave a mark. They’re not drowning in digital reverb or rehashing to much of ye olde Exciter and Razor theatrics but they’re way in that lane all the same. The best analogue I could come up with beyond their crystal clear worship of early Whiplash would be Dyoxen, who were not only also Quebec based but a group of thrashers who likewise “lead with shred” and made a reasonable dent with their cult ‘First Among Equals’ record. The major difference with any ‘classic thrash’ reference I’d like to make (Lääz Rockit, Razor, Toxik, Whiplash, Megadeth, etc.) is that Warsenal don’t necessarily write memorable songs, largely as a result of their use of non-traditional structural mutation in place of outright variation.
As “pieces of…” an altogether exceptional experience the songs these Canadians write are thrilling as variations on a theme that’ve dried into redundancies by the time “Burning Ships” chimes in, serving as the fourth or fifth reprisal of the ‘same’ attack. The permutations that arise eventually centralize to form a lane that Warsenal energetically thrives within and ‘Feast Your Eyes’ feels all the more directional for this focus. They’re not writing ballads, not dabbling anywhere near the ‘Reign in Blood’ ethos, nor are they dipping into any sort of sub-genre fusion, just powering through a point of view that is set and unwavering. This is very much in the tradition of classic speed metal, and no doubt it’ll bore the shit out of folks looking for the latest ‘fusion’ minded newcomer. If there is any universal takeaway to be pulled from ‘Feast Your Eyes’ it is that Warsenal have intentionally and clearly defined themselves with it, aiming for a storm of clangorous screeching riffs that amount to the unmistakable vibrancy of pure speed metal.
“Forever Lost”, “I Am The Blade”, “Doomed From Birth” invoke a cumulative tunnel vision, where the full listen takes on a cocky Mustaine-esque affect in hindsight but guitarist Mathieu Rondeau rarely uses the guitar solo as a centerpiece, placing all of the weight upon his spastic and intricate rhythm guitar runs. Leads become placeholders, flourishes and splatters of rock guitar that the listener must use as guideposts whenever lost in the maze of hyper-riffed bounding Warsenal now exclusively operates within. I find this thrilling in times of focus and taxing in times of rest, where I would hit a few songs and skip off of the full listen because I’d ‘gotten the point’ beyond the second or third spin of the whole. If every song is “opener worthy” initial perusal and re-discovery is (and will be consistently) massive but I’ll be damned if the full spin will stick beyond a thumbs up. That first impression is golden, though, and I won’t downplay ‘Feast Your Eyes’ ability to recharge that old hunger that’d arisen when I first discovered thrash/speed metal. There is great value in that reminder and newcomers don’t have a better option for it in 2019. Moderately high recommendation. For preview purposes I’d recommend “Forever Lost”, “Burning Ships”, and “Doomed From Birth” for the real stage-divers of the bunch.
The power and the pain. 4.0/5.0
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