Putting a hardcore punk vocalist in front of a melodic thrash metal band is yet one of the most vastly underrated points of genius to come from the skate-bummed cocaine high of the west coast United States in the late 80’s. For many of us folks who’d discover rock and heavy music through indomitable thrash-rock records from Suicidal Tendencies, Excel, and their ilk this virtually untouched style remains an awkwardly heralded fountain of youth. Southern California hardcore punks Take Offense aren’t so massively stuck in the past, though, as evidenced by their first two albums’ tough-assed 90’s hardcore style that’d progress towards a crossover/thrash reality in full since. The writing had been on the wall back in 2013 but everything went dead silent ’til 2018 when the ‘Tensions on High’ EP struck gold with a much more fully realized vision. The fruits of their labor bears great metal weight on this third full-length, ‘Keep an Eye Out’, a record that expertly captures the attitude and full-ranged vision of an all-too specific crossover/thrash niche that still rightfully holds massive widespread appeal.
‘Keep an Eye Out’ kicks off with its title track and within seconds I’d figured they’d gone rogue beyond ‘Tensions on High’ and were leaning towards something way more Snapcase in style but that’d been the angular psychedelic thrash metal jut of the fantastic guitar work just beginning to peek beyond the rafters. Huh? Yeah if you’re as big a fan of Leeway‘s ‘Born to Expire‘ and Excel‘s ‘Split Image‘ you’re going to buy this album before you’ve even finished listening to it. I get the sense that Take Offense sat down at one point and looked for an agreed upon apex predator in the history of their collective taste and pointed right at the point where Mike Muir (Suicidal Tendencies) and Mike Clark (No Mercy) began to collaborate on a melodic mind-meld of their two bands. Prong were doing something similar around that time, and Excel had basically been doing it without going full-on metal. Nowhere near as raw as ‘Widespread Bloodshed, Love Runs Red’ and generally a more polished thrasher along the lines of ‘Beg to Differ’ era Prong, ‘Keep an Eye Out’ feels like Take Offense‘s reality spreads equal love for both coast’s contributions to crossover thrash in that late 80’s and early 90’s. So, it is a metal album through and through that resembles a classic sect of heavy metal and hardcore punk alignment.
As much as I’d love to blame all of the garbage-assed groove/alternative metal that’d shit a bland streak throughout the 90’s, melodic thrash metal died as the aging skulls of 80’s thrashers either heard heavier sounds or inevitably fell in love with progressive extremism. The greatest minds for melody have had more important places to be since at least 1995 and ’91 if I’m casting aside all the heroin-curious ex-punk/metal kids who made a shit grunge album beyond. I wouldn’t be taking a dump on a couple decades worth of melodic thrash metal artistry if ‘Keep an Eye Out’ wasn’t such a success in that field. The natural assumption is that osmosis is to blame, a patchwork semblance is easily achieved with the right sound design, but Take Offense clearly worked hard on not only their riffs, not just their songs, but on the hooks and the ‘almost carrying a tune’ earnest exasperation of their influences.
If you’ve been banging up against any tree that kinda looks like Power Trip if you squint and ended up digging back into Cro-Mags adjacency beyond you’ll undoubtedly have ended up spinning a Leeway record and no doubt that loose-necked version of crossover is where folks will look first when classifying Take Offense‘s function but, their diction and songwriting are unique and far more varied within early 90’s rock and metal spheres. If I’m listening to a metal-punk record with a timeless sound I expect a wide range of interest in the guitar work; On that same token I love any guitarist who can do both hard and soft thrash metal songwriting with equal quality and without going generic in either mood — Take Offense‘s guitarists do this on ‘Keep an Eye Out’ without depending on a dumbed down or too deeply ‘old school’ sound design, instead they select effects and turn-on-a-dime riffs that invoke the style of old by conveying that ‘new frontier of crossover’ level of energy within performances. Guitar arrangements are much more considered than anything they’ve done before, “Internalized” is probably the most neatly arranged and effective ‘punks gone metal’ hit since folks stopped writing them around 1994. Its such a fuckin’ hook and every damned song has one at least as good as the last whenever I spin this record.
Succinct and void of any filler at around 32 minutes ‘Keep an Eye Out’ was an instant addiction that’d usually hit around three full listens per session with the album. I could leave it on repeat for a full week and still never tire of its infinitely catchy, heavy, and tripped-out crossover thrash metal sound. Sure I’m nostalgic for that sound, but then again I’d never stopped listening that early 90’s sound since… the early 90’s. These guys do it best on ‘Keep an Eye Out’, and Take Offense easily sit up there with the absolute best of 2019.
Very high recommendation. 4.5/5.0
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