SPEEDWHORE – Visions of a Parallel World (2023)REVIEW

A horrifying scream from the next to be devoured follows an air-rippling roar from the gaping mouth of the beast as this yet unnamed doomed scherzo burps up thrashing fire from below. — Arriving real, raw and infused with the kicking jog of traditional heavy metal in every step Berlin, Germany-based black-thrashing quartet Speedwhore step into a second portal of tumultuous gloom on their sophomore full-length album. ‘Visions of a Parallel World‘ is an unusually extreme strike at speed metal which manages to be tuneful and obscurant at once, cutting from ear-boggling roar and retching shrieks into foot-tappingly memorable riff and ruin, making for an elegantly barbaric chasm of underground aggression presented with some tuneful merit in mind. Fantastic as the spectacle of unique juxtaposition per decidedly ‘old school’ munitions are upon induction this’ll end up being release decidedly for those who seek out the strange, a record that’d rather be a curious outlier in heavy metal than a malformed clone.

Formed as Speed Whöre circa 2006 between vocalist/guitarist Tim Kuntze and bassist Johannes “Joker” Mikulits the original focus of the band, once they’d begin pushing for more than some fun biermetall, was of course early German classics with a bit of Sodom featuring in their learning process as you’ll find that early extreme metal spirit on their earliest demo (‘Rehearsal – May 2008‘, 2008) where their ‘old school’ thrash/speed metal fandom began to shine through on subsequent tapes (‘The Inferno Tapes‘, 2013) bearing the updated Speedwhore name. To be sure it’d been slow-going for the group who were really just paying time and money into their hobby rather than trying to be noticed at all, wherein circumstances allowed the band to eventually record a debut full-length, the strangely titled ‘The Future is Now‘, in 2014 which released the following year on cult gemseeker label Witches Brew. It’d been a very do-it-yourself hell fest of a record with properly naïve album artwork and a brutal, atmospheric blackened thrash metal sound with a heavy metal kick to its ranting, echoing, and aggressive style. Too chaotic to resemble the expected take on the style at the time but leaning into the rocking rush of their strangely atmospheric sound that debut had a satisfying early 80’s extreme verve to its echoing throttle. It is the type of record only the most true seekers of idiosyncratic homebrewed metal cherish, raw energy that’d arisen from the workspace which was hardly considered for the audience.

The cap on the early vision of the band came with ‘On The Verge of Dysfunction‘ (2016) an mLP which celebrated their ten year trip with new versions of some of their earliest songs alongside some new tracks. At that point in their discography it makes sense to take stock of the band having been kicking the can down the road for quite some time, clearly not trying to be rock stars or arriving with any delusions about their nostalgic craft. They’d had something like ~five drummers cycle through the band at that point before the line-up seemed to stabilize beyond 2019 or so as yearly activity with split releases and such followed; With this pretty honest approach to street level underground thrash/speed metal and a “no rock star bullshit” attitude having been persistent for their first decade we can’t expect any drastic changes heading into album number two several years later though we should head into their portal expecting uncompromised vision, an effective ‘old school’ underground speed metal experience that arrives on its own schedule without the pressures of the audience in mind. In this sense we still get an album that has the spirit of old German thrash metal with a bit of early 80’s heavy metal attitude which is not limited to but certainly includes a short list of cult acts like Living Death circa ‘Vengeance of Hell‘ and ‘The Upcoming Terror‘-era Assassin as well as the pre-’86 side of bands like Razor and Slayer. From my point of view this applies more to modern notions of black/thrash metal which is first wave inspired but not in any too-specific sense.

To my ear a band like Speedwhore isn’t so much a multi-level attack so much as their work is shot-gunned aggression with some light attempts at stomping heavy metal (“Lion’s Gate”, “Hologram“) with light doom metal influences. No matter what is fed into their machine a barrage of molten shrapnel results. Some pieces hiss by in a couple minutes, exploding in one ear and out the other with quite a lot of blood involved (“Matriarch“) whereas others rain down in their chaos and land in unexpected places, all the while screaming and wailing for effect. There is no particular tact in the placement of these events beyond what simply feels natural, making it all the more impressive that ‘Visions of a Parallel World‘ arrives as a morbid salad of ideas which somehow works beyond the under-thought nature of their attack. There is no major ‘step up’ made on this record beyond a bit more spikes of grotesque heavy metal hitting the brain, first with the eerie hum of “Lion’s Gate” and later down the road with the almost Cirith Ungol level vocal seethe to the slower, growl-filled sections of “Heir to the Ruby Throne” and “The Last Bulwark of Man”. If there were ever a “thrash”-minded band who could pull off the late 80’s thrash/doom concoction naturally it’d be these folks.

My favorite moments on ‘Visions of a Parallel World‘ feel entirely sourced from an anxietous thrash metal jam session among folks who’ve been listening to quite a lot of circa ’83/late-era NWOBHM and figuring their way through more ‘evil’ heavy metal guitar runs, “Clutch of the Sea” being a finest example of their clear interest in traditional heavy metal with a noxious, menacing twist and the last third of “Golgotha” representing where that can just as well go wrong without any distinct focal point. Vocals from Kuntze are largely incoherent gasps, roars, and gusts of air which help to further set us up in that early extreme metallic state of mind, centered around equal parts growl, shriek and wail in tribute to the beast. This ensures us their work still has a hint of ‘Obsessed by Cruelty‘ in mind every time they pick up a microphone but never in service to a tuneful or memorable statement. The recording is full of peaking levels and strange animal noise vocal performances which build up into a storm of surreal yet still thrashing heavy metal energy, somehow working towards the ominous hum of “Decrypted Prophecies” and making sense of what is essential bestially-conjured nonsense.

The first few pieces which kick off the listening experience make good sense and the closer/title track (“Visions of a Parallel World”) make good sense in their general relation but most of the album offers incidental dementia, the wild chaff of evil speed metal stirred up into a cyclonic pit of shrieking terror. Of course I enjoy that sort of thing, the more over the top and esoteric the better, though I don’t know how deep of a connection it will make with the die-hard ‘old school’ thrasher looking for more than a handful of pronounced riffs, the songcraft here feels moderately abstract in most cases. After some serious time spent with ‘Visions of a Parallel World‘ I had to concede that the hellish stroke of speed metal noise they’d managed was ultimately memorable even if it became a shapeless, distant drone at certain points within the full listen. In fact I found myself anticipating and enjoying the strange contradiction shared between obscurant vocal tirades and sparking heavy metal riffcraft which felt a step beyond Speedwhore‘s debut. Plenty of outrageous, memorable, and outright strange choices made for a notable if not initially stumping experience. A moderately high recommendation.


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