SPECIES – To Find Deliverance (2022)REVIEW

To enter a pact of unhindered creative development and emerge on the far side together as an compelling, largely evocative progressive thrash metal band in proper form without necessarily intending as much is difficult to fathom considering the specific tastes and synergistic realities it’d take to get there with any certain aptitude yet Warsaw, Poland-based trio Species appear to have naturally gravitated to this realm of backwards-facing thrash metal contortionism as they’d developed. Their first moment of glowing neon abstraction, that which greets us in view of their debut full-length ‘To Find Deliverance‘, speaks directly to the conflict of existentialist desire for autonomy within the confines of a very controlled and challenging existence today yet it won’t too-directly indicate the genuine ‘old school’ thrash metal sensation of progressive metal they’ve inflicted upon the general public ’til you’ve jumped in. The various appealing aspects of classic thrash metal abstraction, underground specific riff-oriented enthusiasm, and certain brand of performative introspection all hail together for this inspired debut — Though it might take a specific idealist to find their taste matched, the ride on offer will ultimately redeem when given due attendance.

These folks are perhaps a step more ambitious than they’d seemed at a glance on their debut EP ‘The Monument of Envy‘ (2019), a record which’d been the result of about five months of rehearsals beyond Species‘ formation in 2018, songs which now read as moderately defined sketches of three pieces which’ve been refined and sped up to a new level of heightened aggression on this debut LP. The middle bulk of their debut longplayer represents the foundational aptitude of the band developed in this sense, the spark of the trio’s hammering away at progressive metal songs which retain a sort of snapped-out yet relaxed sensibility common to late 80’s progressive/technical thrash metal. It is a far cry from the uber-technical ‘Black Future‘-obssessed side of things which borrowed the aggression of death/thrash rather than the lesser-known depths of European “techno-thrash” of a certain era, this is not necessarily an Aspid sort of gig just yet in terms of aggression. Instead, though it is not a complete comparison, we can thoughtfully look back to Shah‘s demo re-recorded into an LP release ‘Escape From Pain‘ circa ’94 for the sake of identifying the peak ambitions of late 80’s thrash with a limited budget re-considered alongside the additional contextualization bands like Coroner had offered at their post-80’s artistic breakthrough (see: ‘Mental Vortex‘) to fully find the sort of spirit of what Species are doing with their classic and deep underground cut craft and you’ll hear these elements the moment the album digs into lead single/opener “Parasite” to start.

Riffs punctuated with spikes of discordant confrontation, inspired use of gang-shouts speak to a restless condition, fusion-stretched leads suggest some extensive development of technique, and street-level kicked thrash metal riffs scold the listener with the concrete-footed station of modern man as Species break into their debut full-length with a form of confident dissertation entirely unique to classic thrash metal. You’ll have to excuse the cliché because it has been misused over the last twenty years for sure but, it does feel like ‘To Find Deliverance‘ is a long lost relic of a bygone (musical) era, at least in the sense that the sound design is modest and the spirit of the music echoes the worldwide political unrest, environmental decimation and injustice wracked future depression which’d been so common in the late 80’s. It could just be history repeating itself and someone like me being old enough to see the ouroboros finally nab its tail, eh. There does seem to be a perfect storm occurring within either way, likely due to the enthused backing of a healthy wave of inspired Polish underground metal crews forming on the daily with some love for ‘old school’ lessons and in the case of these folks some strong love for the rhythmic interest generated from the best of 70’s progressive rock.

In their efforts to stand out from yet operate within the confines of traditional (yet, inherently non-traditional) thrash metal these young folks hit upon a few ideas we’d heard back in the day on Equinox‘ ‘The Way to Go‘ wherein the angular, sort of playful (in an early Voivod sort of way) prog-thrash and the more adventurous, off-kilter side of Depressive Age‘s ‘First Depression‘ translate to something which was sophisticated by still attached to the grittiness of the classic thrash metal era. “Falls the Tower” is a fine example up front and perhaps the song to compound the interest of riff-obssessed thrashers but we really hit the sort of primal idealistic ‘prog-thrash’ surge within the more performative progressive metal climaxes of “The Monument of Envy”, or, at least a more elaborate example of the riffcraft which develops complex and enriched grooves rather than the plain binary sort we’d find more often on the commercial spectrum of the earliest 90’s. This is the sort of early peak of the listening experience in terms of having learned the general musical language codified by the band and from that point they simple find various things to do with said toolset.

“Malfunction” stands out perhaps more for the sampled transmission it uses within the song than the instrumental piece itself, though it isn’t a bad or interruptive performance. The interaction over the radio highlights an exchange between La Guardia Airport ground control and US Airways Flight 1549 wherein the plane’s engines had exploded during ascent, having sucked up a flock of geese into ’em, and the suggestion is given to attempt a landing on the tarmac. The pilot sort of famously made their own call and landed in the Hudson river, saving all 155 people rather than follow the suggestion of the air traffic controller. Again, the context of the clip is more interesting than the song, though the fusion lead breaks and militaristic blasts of the song are entertaining enough and you’ll have been riding in the pocket of Species‘ sound for the whole of the first half of the album by then.

We aren’t exactly riding on fumes when “Thy Name is Slaughter” arrives but there is a hill to climb therein as it represents one of the longest, most involved pieces on the full listen as it places the listener in the mind of a power maddened narrator either a dictator or just Death himself. For my own taste this is a huge highlight on the full listen and a well-picked second single for its experiential value, at least in the sense that their aggressive thrash metal side and 70’s prog rock influences ensure that the song itself is a ride representative of a mind reeling out of control yet relishing in the puppetry of human life. Side B is has hit a peak but the first of two when we consider the 11+ minute thrall to conquer (“Ex-Machina”) which greets us at the end. Although it’d be fair to say that this verges on too ambitious a piece for such a ‘green’ band it’d eventually become the defining piece and perhaps the best overall showing of what Species are all about as this enormous statement at the endpoint of their debut. Bassist/vocalist Piotr Drobina especially shines here in terms of finally giving us a better scan of his more intricate playing as the song leans into parity of guitar and bass flourishes in pushing towards the mid-point of the song. It isn’t exactly ‘Elements of Anger‘ in terms of fidelity but there is a steady groove featured on this extended piece which feels like the direction the band intend to explore more in the future and it is perhaps the song the really cement the progressive thrash metal capabilities of the group away from the hard-nosed thrashing found elsewhere on most of the record. Either way, it balances the record (again) as an experience rather than a collection of riff-scudding exercises.

No doubt there is some nostalgia for the weirding existentialism, or, personalized introspection of late 80’s progressive thrash metal factoring into my enjoyment of this record so, consider that a point of bias if you’ve never really put the work into knowing and piecing together the technical climes of worldwide thrash metal reach prior to 1994 or so. Even without some love for the strange, eclectic wilderness of late classic thrash the major goal of Species is nonetheless impressive for its reach into the past and application to the present on this debut. Not only is the render entirely readable, effectively dynamic enough to immerse while still maintaining an ‘old school’ off-color thrash experience, but the holistic package considered effectively calls for more from these inspired folks who’ve just breached the surface of what they are capable of. Pairing this emergent experience with colorful, appreciably detailed cover artwork by Aleksandra Pawłowska does a fine job of representing the introverted detangling of the mind which takes place within ‘To Find Deliverance‘ and despite being a bit electric with its contrasting coloration for the average thrash head it’ll reach the right sort of weirdo with something a bit different, on all counts. A very high recommendation.

Very high recommendation. (85/100)

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.
ARTIST:SPECIES
TITLE:To Find Deliverance
LABEL(S):Awakening Records
RELEASE DATE:August 26th, 2022

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