Thrash metal with any reasonable approach to authenticity is not sustainable without some meaningful connection to classic heavy rock songwriting, a ‘felt’ defiance by way of punk energy, and the steely-eyed shred fingered competitive spirit of 80’s heavy metal. Extrusion from the bottlenecked mouth of that shoulder-to-shoulder stuffed cave into the light of modern thrash metal is often painful to watch where the easiest shortcut to listenable forms most often involves bland peer imitation, unpracticed musicianship, and ‘unserious ’til we’re selling’ millennial-specific genotypical expression. The effect of those “great in preview, bored on album” type of releases is corrosive upon the already well n’ mangled sub-genre itself. So, you’ll have to forgive the hesitance of us froth-mouthed and brain-starved legions of thrash zombies out there tapping heads and prodding in the dark for riffs worth a damn. Hesitation’d been my initial reaction to the neon yellow splashed quasi-Repka art of ‘Delirium’, the second full-length from Canadian shred-thrashers Hazzerd who’re not the vapid and iterative trudgery I’d assumed. Even a cursory spin through their three official releases thus far showcases a gifted songwriting sense and steadily improving high-caliber skill level appropriate for youths invoking the oldest spirit of thrash metal in an age of information that’d allow the sub-genre’s entire history at their fingertips.
Sociopolitical lyrics laying into corruption and greed are woven within criticism of greater societal madness as Hazzerd‘s lyrics pull focus away from the Megadeth and Havok influenced political conspiracy theorem of the first album (‘Misleading Evil‘, 2017) without losing sight of their take on religious hypocrisy and herd mentality. As the title suggests, ‘Delirium’ is more concerned with the insanity of the present despite its potently aggressive delivery, never reaching ‘Conformicide’ or ‘Dystopia’ levels of foil hat preach-cringe but shaking a finger at the cattle nonetheless. Heavily influenced by peak Megadeth, 80’s shred, and classic heavy metal in general for this second album, Hazzerd escape the street-level thrash of the greater mass of their countrymen by way of tightly wound, precise and wailing guitar performances that rarely feel robotic or plainly repetitive on a full listen.
The whirlwind of ‘Delirium’ comes fast on Side A, giving a first impression not far from a front-loaded generationally appropriate Bay Area bum rush a la early Overkill, or Forbidden though their approach to riffing is more modern and not plainly ‘retro’, closer to the aforementioned Havok (or, Hexen) with some modern shred, power/thrash, and technical thrash techniques applied. None of this would warrant any considerable mention beyond the norm if not for the distinct squawk of drummer/vocalist Dylan Westendorp who provides considerable personality for this already somewhat over-the-top record’s personality with his voice, which lands somewhere between the diction of Mark Osegueda (Death Angel) and the life-affirming howl of Tim Baker (Cirith Ungol). It isn’t fuckin’ Toxik but hey, they could go there if they wanted to and I hope Hazzerd never dial it back. Don’t get me wrong, I’m in it for the ‘ride’ of the songwriting and the riffs but Hazzerd wouldn’t have jumped at me in the ‘classic thrash’ sense without the vocals pushing the listening experience into outrage.
Whether they are a remarkably talented study of classic thrash metal’s overblown underground peak in the mid-to-late 80’s or a particularly gifted anomaly among the most recent wave of Canadian thrash metal vibrancy, what Hazzerd have put together on ‘Delirium’ is a memorable spin with the right attitude conveyed. If you’ve got me on board for a doofus Anthrax-assed (er, “Poison Was the Cure”-assed?) song like “Dead in a Shed” you know you’re killing it on some cosmically satisfying basal level. The only point where I was a little confused was the melodic thrasher “Illuminated Truth” which felt like it could’ve been handed off to compatriots Traveler instead. Beyond that track I was always up for another spin of ‘Delirium’, never tiring of its big n’ yowling personality. Varied and impactful percussion, shredding abandon, and howling lunacy with a sneering middle finger thrown in here and there all add up to a good time and a surprisingly high recommendation on my end.
High recommendation. 4.0/5.0
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