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It can be plainly stated that the politically charged lyrics that tended to dominate latter 80s and early 90s thrash metal were not for everybody in the scene, and more particularly those who had grown more attached to the more occult-based and vile character of the early to mid 80s. However, the amount of derision thrown at a number of otherwise classic later thrash albums borderlines on sheer ridiculousness, particularly when it gets thrown at albums that didn't really mellow out musically. True, albums like Testament's "Practice What You Preach" were definitely not cream of the crop, and even a better representation in Xentrix's "For Who's Advantage?" shouldn't be treated as the absolute final word in the genre, but equivocation between a handful of duds and an undeniable hard-hitter of an album in "Impact Is Imminent" is where the line should be drawn.
From start to finish, this album is a punchy wrecking machine of riffs and attitude that rivals Overkill's "Horrorscope" in how easily it kicks the teeth right out of one's mouth. With all the speed and madness of something more readily heard out of Vio-Lence's "Eternal Nightmare", the runaway train that is the title song "Impact Is Imminent" is arguably one of the best songs out of the entire Exodus catalog. The crunch factor from the guitars and the irreverent snarls of Steve Souza meld together perfectly and, at times, almost sound like they might have influenced the handiwork of the two latest Overkill albums. And not being one to be pigeon-holed into only being on their A game when cooking at full speed, "Only Death Decides" delivers a similar assortment of pummeling goodness at more of a mid-pace.
Much of what occurs in the middle section of this album is actually a bit slower and not quite as complex by the standards of previous albums, but it doesn't get anywhere near boring and has a lot going on to compensate for any lack of absolute mayhem going on in the rhythm guitar department. The amount of guitar gymnastics going on during lead breaks is impressive, as if a dueling twin guitar attack version of what Kirk Hammett did on "...And Justice For All" was translated into the arrangement, only without the overuse of the wah pedal and some actual feeling apart from sheer venting being present. Souza's vocal assault also brings an interesting twist into the occasion, taking on a slightly sleazier character and when combined with the frequent gang chorus chime-ins gives this a slight Anthrax flavor.
Perhaps the only thing that really holds this album back a little is that the pacing is a bit heavy on the speed around the edges while the middle is largely lingering in mid-tempo land. The cut-throat speed and aggression of "Impact Is Imminent" sets the bar really high, and it doesn't quite get met again until near the end with "Changing Of The Guard", another fast paced highlight of this album that manages to maintain a faster and furious tempo for most of the time while going through a whole series of twists and turns reminiscent of Metallica's finer moments on "...And Justice For All", though with a much more optimistic view of a more specific political outcome. And things end on an even higher note still with the punk-infused thrasher "Thrash Under Pressure", clocking in at under 3 minutes yet cutting heads with the same ferocity as its near 7 minute predecessor.
What it ultimately comes down to with this album in relation to the previous 2 (for those who have heard the band's 80s catalog but not this one) is roughly the same divide that separated "Peace Sells" from "Rust In Peace". It's a somewhat more melodic and drawn out affair, delving into somewhat different lyrical content, but it still basically hits the mark equally as hard. It can be debated to the end of time to what extent a lot of these bands actually understood the things that they wrote about, but ultimately it all comes back to how much the musical content batters the listener into headbanging obedience, and "Impact Is Imminent" definitely leaves an impression, right in the upper part of the skull.