DEATHHAMMER – Electric Warfare (2022)REVIEW

Demoed and scrapped in 2016 beyond the sessions for the previous album, re-recorded and expanded with newer songs in 2020 but only just now ready to go due to ongoing global pandemia this fifth full-length from infamous Norwegian black/thrash metal duo Deathhammer might’ve had to struggle and claw its way out of their infernal womb for years but the end result is just as consistent and characteristic as their previous four albums. As was the case with all previous efforts thus far ‘Electric Warfare‘ is one meaningful half-step forward and two steps back in time, not-so pure ‘evil’ thrash metal sounds heavily influenced by Teutonic thrash metal spheres of the early 80’s, traditional heavy metal and the original spirit of black metal. Their longest runtime to date and cleanest recording yet, this one is decidedly tuned for folks obsessed with the hard-edged rhythm guitar finesse of classic thrash metal mania, no less blackened but now sounding exactly as big as they should thanks to an extra bit of thunder in their render.

When ‘Chained to Hell‘ released back in 2018 the gist of my review was that I’d been on board since ‘Onward to the Pits‘ (2012) but that fourth album felt like they had found a most definitive sound, a prime balance of raw black/thrash energy that’d spoken to what they were all about while meeting up nuts-to-nuts with the precision kill of early German thrash metal rhythms. It’d make sense to note here that ‘Chained in Hell‘ was recorded in 2015 and represents where the band was at seven years ago, apparently one of the members moved to Australia and some point and recordings have been infrequent since. The root for the ‘Electric Warfare‘ sessions started in 2016, as previously noted, but in this case we’re meeting up with Deathhammer circa 2020 and the five year gap has given plenty of time for each of the member’s songwriting skills to evolve somewhat separately, a sort of nowadays Darkthrone-esque dichotomy; One provides the 3-4 minute burners, frantic At War style cuts that line up with their early Destruction influenced sound. The other pushes into the 5-7 minute range with each of his compositions pushing the tempo and landing somewhat closer to the brutal scramble and precision hits of Nekromantheon. As a result of their alternating strengths bolstering the greater momentum of ‘Electric Warfare‘, these two different extremes make for an even more engaging listen.

I don’t know if I’ve gotten to the point yet entirely but, yeah this album is basically all about two things: Riffs, tons of riffs. I mean, most folks who’re attuned to this world are going to buy this record for the rhythm guitar work, it inarguably smokes at both ends and plays like it’d dropped on Noise Records circa 1987. This time around I’d say Sargent Salsten‘s intensifying vocal style is an equal standout as he adds quite a lot of personality to the experience with raw shouts, gang shouts, rasps and tons of higher register shrieks to emphasize phrases and add menace to his very active cadence. The 6-7 minute songs are where these elements shine most, and though we’re not talking like Witching Hour level epics here the extended pieces allow some space for the band to work in more traditional heavy metal riffs and melodies — “Crushing the Pearly Gates” has the first shots fire in this regard with its warrior-ready bridge and galloping hooves in the last third of the song while “Return to Sodom / Soldiers of Darkness” reaches a shout-along heavy metal high before the second part ducks into what’d initially read like a late 80’s Slayer medley to me (see also: intro to “Rapid Violence”). These trad metal touched songs have continued to catch my ear as standout moments on repeat listens but the album doesn’t necessarily leave a ton of room to soak in the details by setting a faster shredded-out piece like “Thirst For Ritual” right after longer, more elaborate songs.

The last two songs on ‘Electric Warfare‘ are ultimately the test of these 7+ minute compositions stepping away from black-thrash cliché and leaning into classic thrash anthems. “Thrown to the Abyss” could’ve easily been the grand finale of the album as spectacular, hitting upon my favorite riff on the album around ~4:30 minutes into the song, and the song does end with a sort of finality attached to its last few hits. The choice to follow it up with another equally large piece, “Violent Age of Bloodshed”, does land a bit redundant and the fade out at the end just kind of happens but in this case more is better if you listen to records on repeat several times in a row when you pick them up, as I do. Overkill isn’t a crime in the world of evil thrash metal, anyhow, and one extra big chunk of it adds runtime to a record that benefits from keeping the blood flowing, staying on a roll. For my own taste Deathhammer have kept it admirably unholy here with this fifth record exploring the extremes of the realm they’ve created for themselves without losing their tunnel-vision’d possession of the listener with a steady stream of uproarious thrash metal guitar work and still ridiculously kinetic performances. They might’ve even gone kinda thinking man’s thrasher here and there on a few songs, hitting upon some refrains that’ll be stuck in your head for weeks. We don’t get a lot of these nowadays so, I say get in while its still on fire. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (80/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
TITLE:Electric Warfare
LABEL(S):Hell’s Headbangers Records
RELEASE DATE:February 25th, 2022 [CD],
April 29th, 2022 [CS, LP]

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