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Thrash metal has seen a steady resurgence of interest during recent years. New bands are emerging with intimidating sounds and techniques and are managing to garner an equally intimidating force of devoted fans of the “new wave”. However, Anger As Art, with their new release "Hubris Inc." off Old School Metal Records, proves that experience above all else, is golden. Anger As Art boasts a lineup of veterans with decades of experience in thrash and speed metal. However, with their new release, the band took it one step further and ended up inviting numerous renowned guests to feature in the album. One of these guests is Dark Angel's Jim Durkin, performing lead guitar. Upon discovery of this piece of information, I went comatose for several minutes, and my medication was the music of "Hubris Inc." The band’s years of experience is put to good use on the album, with each member’s technicality and mastery shining through each track, putting aspiring musicians such as myself to misery and shame under the weight of their sheer awesomeness.
The title and opening track of the album begins reminiscent of old school Iron Maiden. Now, this is where the band’s technical flair starts to take up real shape. Yes, during the first track. I was gifted with a bout of some of the best lead guitar work I had heard in a long time. It was marvelous, stunning even, and it did not stop. “Time Devours Life”, the next track, wastes no time in steering the album onto full-on thrash rocking. The insane blast-beating and double-bass drums of madness are evident here. Hell, it is evident throughout the entire album. Vocalist Steve Gaines definitely does not let age hold him back. The vocals have a very edgy, coarse tone, perfect for the kind of music Anger As Art plays. Gaines’ voice reminds me of that of Overkill's Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth, except with a more guttural edge. The vocals shine on “Gods of Hate”, despite the main melody of the song wearing out fast. In fact, the band’s focus of demonstrating their technical godliness has left a certain trail of uncertainty with the songs. The melodies do not seem well-thought out and the album does not appear well-coordinated, and there is also an issue of repetition.
However, the band recovers from this by presenting listeners with “Speed Kills”, a cheekily named track in which the band decided to remind people that anyone attempting to play as quick as they do, will die. That kind of speed would certainly kill me. “As The Exalted Seethe” proved to be the standout track with more creative writing and a more different sound. The band’s lethal technical precision takes on a whole new level here with the musicality and style present in this track. For the last track of the album “Never Forgive, Never Forget”, the band cuts it simpler technique-wise, focusing instead on all out thrash fun. It was nice, refreshing even, to hear this.
When the band reverted back to basics with the two aforementioned tracks, I sighed in contentment. That was good. That was nice. An hour of murderous noise is not. I am not saying "Hubris Inc." was that – this is simply a premonition that without the efforts of the very talented and experienced band members, "Hubris Inc." might just have been that. "Hurbis Inc." is a heavily loaded album with years of experience laying its foundation and guest stars to hoist all fourteen tracks up onto a pedestal of epicenes. But that may just be the issue - fourteen tracks. To be more specific, fourteen tracks of 230 BPM thrash/speed songs absolutely conquered by the maestros playing them. It can be a little too much, and Anger As Art has certainly proven to be beyond the boundaries of human capability with this new album. However, musicality may have been compromised in the heat of the band’s technical focus.
"Hubris Inc." came off as a little ungainly with issues of repetition and little musicality. However, that can be overlooked and hidden behind the stunning virtuosity of the band. They are simply that bloody good.
Originally written for http://www.metal-temple.com
While many of today's younger, throwback thrashers rumble with one another to determine who has the most '80s cred', California's Anger As Art is the living DEFINITION of such status. Members of this group have done their time in acts like Abattoir, Bitch, Bloodlust, and Dreams of Damnation, and some of the more prolific constituents (like current drummer Rob Alaniz) have also explored the realm of extreme metal in numerous black and death projects. So it's no surprise, that when all these gentlemen get together, it sounds a lot like 25-30 years ago, a fact their latest album plays to both its strength and bit of its more obvious derivation. I've heard several of their past records, and enjoyed them, a reaction that hasn't changed with this latest material.
Yes, borrowing from the Golden Age of the medium is hardly a novel idea this past decade, but it's just how this band approaches it that makes them such a rarity. This isn't strictly a riffing machine, attempting to pack as many sound-a-like Exodus and Metallica guitar progression into a youthful, ironic sense of complexity, but a gang of veterans who know to pace themselves, to take their time and focus around a few charging hooks. Aesthetically, they rekindle nostalgia for everything from classic Megadeth, Metal Church or Destruction's riffing impetus, but also to more obscure US acts like Wargasm, Bitter End or Meliah Rage. The vocals really standout, a castrated and pissed off tone that sounds like a more vicious alternative to Russ Anderson of Forbidden's lower range, broiling venom at the edge of the ton with a number of harsh and sporadic screams. The guitar tone in a "Pieces of Red" or "Pearls Before the Swine" punches straight through your chest cavity. Riff construction is choppy but never obsessively complicated; packed with melody, variation, and intensity so that few of the individual cuts sound quite alike. The drums don't overdo Alaniz' more extreme techniques, but obviously the man can play the shit out of a thrash hymn not unlike Gene Hoglan once did. I'd also point out the general quality of the leads, which race along live devil rides burning down a stretch of deserted highway.
Hubris Inc. is loaded with material, 14 tunes total, but most of them are pretty concise and flash on by without wearing out their welcome. The only sore thumb for me was the track "Rage and Retribution", in which Betsy Weiss of Bitch, Witch and Betsy contributes a guest spot that feels too phoned in, cheesy due to the laughable pissed off revenge lyrics; and that opening, palm muted sequence is just too reminiscent of a number of earlier thrash classics (Sepultura and a few others). Don't get me wrong, I don't mind Betsy's personality and she had a few decent albums back in the day, but for some reason this duet came off really corny. In fact, I wasn't too smitten with a number of the lyrics I could make out, or the song titles, many of which feel cliched like you'd find on a number of Overkill albums in the 90s. But otherwise, Hubris Inc. is about as authentic as they come. The Californians' suffer no delusions about what they're transplanting from their youths into the current age, and at least 30-35 minutes of the 55 are packed with excitement, anger, and sincere enthusiasm for this aged but not ailing genre. Not a masterpiece by any means (and I'd rank a few of their older songs above most of these), but I had a good enough time listening through this.