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Between the years of 2006 and 2011 there was such a massive revival in old school oriented thrash metal that one would catch himself checking the calendar for assurance of what decade was under way. There was a mostly equal prominence of acts going for the various modes of thrash that made waves in the 80s, be it green, red or black, and a few acts even opted for what some might call the gray strain of progressive bands that emulated some of the transitional efforts of the early 1990s. But all of these acts had one thing generally in common, and that was a devotion to a past that cut off prior to the changes ushered in circa 1992-1993. There was, however, a strong contingent of bands that took the curious path of opposing the 80s character of the revival in favor of a modern sound that had already been prominent for a while, and most of them were the ones that originally pioneered the style and created the source material from which most of the revivalist acts were drawing.
Enter the newly reformed Defiance, sporting three of the five members that brought the world Void Terra Firma and Beyond Recognition, as well as employing the lead guitar duties of Glen Alvelais (who lit the fret board aflame on Forbidden's debut LP) offering up their first album alleged thrash metal LP in about 17 years. With such a heavily credentialed membership, one would think that a masterpiece of old school thrashing would ensue, but in true fashion to the contemporary output of Exodus and Dublin Death Patrol, one definitely needs to think again. To be fair, Defiance manages to keep things a bit more interesting and do draw upon some of their better days with riffs that avoid being overly lazy and redundant and a guitar sound that, while highly compressed and modern in character, still channels that initial percussive character without sounding like an outtake from Vulgar Display Of Power.
For the most part, the songs tend to be of a fast, but not too fast character in line with the transitional character of early 90s thrash as typified in Exodus' Impact Is Imminent and this band's own third LP Beyond Recognition. Cookers such as "Prion" and "Desert Sands" offer the purest examples of shaking the earth with a modern sound while keeping things moving at a respectable roar, and the more riff happy and complex "Fuel The FIre" actually gets pretty close to Void Terra Firma territory with its frequent creepy dueling harmony guitar parts and shifts in feel. Even some of the more mid-tempo and simplistic numbers such as "The War Inside" manage a respectable showing, in large part due to the frequent and wild lead guitar gymnastics out of Alvelais. On a related note, arguably the most brilliant moment on this song is the brief, Testament inspired instrumental shred fest "Eschaton", which sees the same Alvelais all but perfectly channeling Skolnick to a tee.
Apart from the occasional groove slump here and there, usually confined to a breakdown section or select parts of the title song "The Prophecy", there is only one thing that really drags this album down, and that is Steev Esquivel's growling, tonal yet sloppy vocal delivery. As much as it pains one to say it, he brought a sizable amount of his Skinlab baggage with him, and while at times he comes off as a slightly weaker version of what Chuck Billy has been bringing to Testament's most recent offerings, a lot of Phil Anselmo and Robb Flynn inspired rot filters its way in and out of some of these songs, with the worst moments being where he tries to sing in a cleaner tone. Certain songs suffer more than others, with the title song being pretty badly afflicted, but the whole album suffers for it.
It's a hard thing to say, but this stands as a woefully missed opportunity for a 2nd tier act to really break out of the mold, and they opted to stand in Testament's shadow at their best, while also occasionally descending to pedestrian Machine Head worship. Sadly, yet not unexpectedly, this band didn't last long past this album, and probably for good reason, as their better days were definitely behind them. Not a bad ending, but it could have been better had they gotten either Dave White or even the long retired Ken Elkington to stand at the fore.
17 long years have passed since Defiance's last album, Beyond Recognition, and in the interim some of the members have been dicking around in other bands like Skinlab. Though I've never numbered the band among my very favorite Californian thrash acts, they did produce some decent efforts in Product of Society and Void Terra Firma. So it's good to hear them return to some thrash metal, and The Prophecy does a respectable job of this.
Steev Esquivel's vocals sound much like they have in both his bands, perhaps a little deeper and more aggressive here than on previous Defiance albums, but it creates a percussive effect much like the lower range of Chuck Billy. The band knows they've got to grab you by the balls right away and the album does so with the molten, grooving thrash of "Prion" and "The Prophecy", the latter of which has a Testament-style chorus. The riffing is far from classic but the tracks at least get the blood pumping, and the album does offer better tracks on its latter half, such as "Sloth", "Dissolving Around You", and "Eyes of the Front".
The Prophecy may not be the best written of the band's albums but it does have the loudest and most brazen production. Their guitars have always been on the thin side, yet effective, and this is kept in check here. Esquivel's vocals are large and in charge, but concussive enough to demand a little respect. It's good to have Defiance back, but this is not one of the better reunion albums to have emerged in the born again thrash metal scene. It seems to get better as it goes along, but the hooks just don't sink in like they did with Void Terra Firma.