Damned to a barbaric, cannibalistic future with no end to the gauntlet in sight the will to survive leaves the heavily browed among us drooling with a taste for bloodsport, clapping their flippers at heroically applied suffering as their own bludgeon lies in wait. Not all human beings have begun to devolve into ogrish dolthood today yet all vernacular must change and adapt to keep up with the general disintegration of sentience and literacy in order to remain engaged. Rather than infantilizing their craft down to today’s toddler-sized average attention span Vancouver, B.C.-based thrash metal trio Terrifier instead chose the way of mayhemic violence, extremist takes on a classic forms which speak a well-known and readable language with pure conviction and insistency that it might be received well by such a brutally violent and gormless culture. In this sense ‘Trample the Weak, Devour the Dead‘ heaps its muscular scorn and rabid riffcraft down upon the population which deserves its ruthlessly brutal energy. Eh, and it makes for an excellent ‘old school’ influenced post-millennium thrash metal record with a knack for violent, fast-paced riffs.
Formed in 2003 as Skull Hammer these folks worked their way up the correct way as far as I see it, jamming together as a quartet and writing songs for a number of years until their first demo CD-r ‘Skull Hammer‘ released in 2009. Full of loud wah-pedal shred and a generally tough-assed strike at classic thrash metal riffs which constituted a bounding groove the admirable point of Terrifier‘s beginnings were a technique-ridden touch and some finesse applied to the rhythm section, it all generally worked. The themes of the band were fixated on the era of melee combat, swords without the sorcery and this would directly feed into their “just alright” debut full-length ‘Destroyers of the Faith‘ circa 2011 before the band would change their name and reissue the album as Terrifier in early 2012. The main notes I’d make about that early era of the band generally amount to their style being hodge-podge, a bit of Razor-esque speed metal cutting through a blend of old and new points of Bay Area thrash metal inspiration which at the very least brought energy and precision into reasonable balance. The line-up would generally solidify beyond 2014 as a quintet and this’d allowed the band to pivot into a sound which was invigorated, far more aggressive “street level” thrash than their more humble beginnings.
Terrifier are very much a band in the spirit of the explosive ‘old school’ influenced thrash metal obsession of the first post-millennium decade, a movement which has had trouble sustaining public interest throughout the last decade beyond its most persistent big-billed branding and underground black metal cred-adjacency. While I find the reasoning for this quite obvious, the pool of riff ideas remaining thin isn’t as severe as the generationally homogenized movement away from personalized songcraft that’d taken place in the late 2000’s. No doubt the bands that get at least one element of classic Bay Area style thrash metal “right” in some notable sense per the cloudy memories of aging fandom tend to break through for an album or two (see: Bonded by Blood, Evile, Warbringer, etc.) before their touring fuel runs out or their stylistic expansion goes awry. These particular folks don’t seem to have cut into thrash metal with any naïve starry-eyed ambitions beyond creating effectively notched-up classic thrash metal fixated upon the late 80’s evolution of the sub-genre and its distantly obsessed concentration down to pure efficiency.
The way that this manifested circa 2017 with their sophomore full-length ‘Weapons of Thrash Destruction‘ was with a bit of the rocking swing of ‘Tempo of the Damned‘-era Exodus, some Kreator-sized double bass kicked anthemic charges, and their rhythm guitarists ideation of classic Megadeth, particularly ‘Rust in Peace‘ brought up to the rhythm guitar forward crunch we’d gotten the most of from underground thrash purists pre-‘Black Future‘. It was a loud, charged, and confident thrash metal record which won folks over easily with an above average take on modern day ‘retro’ thrash metal but to folks who spend enough time with thrash metal guitar records to become discerning it was an average high energy release with a bit of mid-80’s Bay Area energy behind it, gang-shouts and a punkish trot included; So they’ve been at it for two decades now, the line-up is cut down to an essential trio for this recording and ‘Trample the Weak, Devour the Dead‘ arrives six years later with an Ed Repka original chomping at a dead woman’s cheek up front… all signs point to a bigger-and-better iteration upon their established self at face-munching value.
In fact Terrifier have changed in some fundamental ways without shattering their foundation, the most important note up front being that the riffs and the rhythms are more focused than ever, finding some of the more traditional heavy metal sparked edges of the previous album have given way to a more blunt-edged and kinetically-charged tact in these riffs. Guitarist Rene Wilkinson (also of death/thrash group Assimilation) still has a bit of that swinging-yet-cutting vision of the thrash metal riff written for two guitars and the technical wiles of certain pieces persist yet we lose some of the more ambitious shredded cuts of the previous record and gain a less defined rhythm guitar voice. If not for the quality of the riffcraft (and naturally the songs written around ’em) this album wouldn’t immediately strike as an improvement over the prior record and I’m sure for those who’ve the steel to not get riled up by this type of music it’ll feel like they’ve tread water to some degree.
Texturally satisfying thrash metal gruel, a non-stop fire-branded attack more-or-less. — Brass, balls, brutality these folks haven’t lost any of the edge that’d arrived with ‘Weapons of Thrash Destruction‘ and instead double-down on what has always worked for them, writing big semi-technical stretches of wrist-snapping riffcraft strung together as easily read statements which often focus on groove as their major resolve. This leaves no room for the tradition of the speed metal ballad, not a moment for anything mid-paced or sloppy, and there’ll be no long and involved instrumental pieces or elaborate presentation in any sense beyond immediate cauterization of the palate; No doubt you’ll have this record figured out in terms of influences pretty quick, likely by the time the gang-shouted chorus of opener “Trial by Combat” hits, as the shades of aforementioned classic/legacy acts contribute to the shrill, bursting mode of the the band at their best-aimed first punch. This isn’t necessarily what Terrifier do best but it is mostly what they do on this record beyond the sharp opening salvo of the opener. A good comparison in terms of a band who absolutely know what they like and where to direct their energy is probably Besieged, who’d more recently returned with a blazer of a record with similar complete contempt for downtime.
Once we’ve hit “Perpetual Onslaught” the composition of the song, the shriek of the vocals and the sensation of speed provided nearly recalls the severity of a group like Inquisitor, or, more fittingly the second Dekapitator record with its extreme energy (see also: “Dawn of the Slaughter”) and the Bay Area thrash driven arrangement, this is a reflection of a somewhat more aggressive style of riffing overall eking out the rocking speed metal side of the band. They dig into the main rhythm guitar presentation here throughout, simply put; Things only really start to bend and flex a bit with the ‘Rust in Peace‘-worthy trot of “Depths of the Storm Scepter” where it feels like the guitarist hits a point of maximum swing and… the song fades out in an unceremonious fashion. This was probably the only point where I was disappointed with the compositional fortitude of the record as it had only been improving song after song up until that point of pause and it -almost- surpassed all past work at that juncture. An entirely consistent, straight forward voice and heavy as nails guitar work otherwise accumulate to serve a perfectly sound new millennium level thrash metal record. The midpoint of the full listen also pretty much marks the point where the oeuvre of the band has more-or-less revealed itself, it is a chainsawed-at guitar record and doesn’t deign push beyond that satisfying point of wrath. There are however some appreciable moments of finesse sparked throughout the full-length. The balance of tightly writ yet street-level riff havoc, riled up gang-shouts, and some reasonably technical flourish applied reads as pure thrash metal even if it is a different cross-generational form of it at the end of the day.
The difference between a persistent ~40 minute long seizure or a seeming eternal flatline is a matter of perspective. By keeping the pace charged and chopping into some faster blitzes throughout Terrifier avoid a completely flat take on the well-trodden style they’ve put a couple of decades work into, though it would be fair to say that this album is all kill, all thrill and no rest ’til death that is a perfectly valid take on true thrash metal spiritus. They’ve mastered the palette of the long-standing classic thrash zeitgeist by rearranging its most commanding traits into a moderately tuneful rhythmic guitar rut, one which wrinkles the brain per its charismatically brutal delivery moreso than its traditional musical ideals. As a longtime fan of thrash metal guitar I would generally say that what this record lacks in a fully customized approach it makes up for in terms of just sheer listenable nature, an ear-scraping riff fest which machine guns out at a proper clip and never strays anywhere unfit or far from their main attack. There aren’t leagues of groups making honest multi-gen conscious thrash metal records with this level of focus these days so no doubt ‘Trample the Weak, Devour the Dead‘ is a filthy hand upon famished mouths in some sense but it is also just a ripping good time to be had for the thrash devotee. Count me in, as I can never get enough of this style when done right, especially since Terrifier haven’t yet edged out the 80’s speed metal feeling out of their otherwise forceful, throttled vision. A very high recommendation.
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