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When I was a young lad, I loved metal. In the early stages of puberty, the only thoughts running through my mind (apart from the quite obvious ones that all little boys who aren't named Richard Simmons undoubtedly had), were thoughts of rock and roll superstardom. I would jump off my bed and air guitar to Highway to Hell, I would tunelessly screech along with Run to the Hills, and I'd strain my acne stained face as hard as I could as I tried to perfect my "metal face" that I'd use in all of my promotional photos. I was a dreamer, and I'd be damned if anybody had tried to explain to me that Metallica was not the pinnacle of speed and musicianship and that Guns n' Roses wasn't the most talented ensemble of musicians ever to exist. Fuck that! I was in my own personal heaven, a land where my fictional thrash metal band, Sewer Skum, was king of the world and all of the kids looked up to me as a bass god. Obviously, this sounds retarded now, but it was the coolest shit in the world when I was ten. Slayer was too brutal for me, and I thought that Testament was underground thrash that nobody except the lucky few had heard before.
If I had actually started that band when I was ten years old, it probably would've sounded like Hatchet.
The bay area kids keep up the regional tradition of solid riffing couple with searing leads, but Awaiting Evil seems to be more of an instructional how-to guide on thrash as opposed to a work of literary thrash classicism. While they do their worship fairly well, they don't carry the ferocity necessary to overcome the deja vu. And frankly, this is one of those cases where I just can't help but feel like they are a group of amateurs who haven't been playing for more than a few years. Sure, they got the cool, older kid from school who knows how to play the tapping solo in One to join the band, but none of them can seem to write a lasting song without copy pasting Legacy era Testament riffs all over the place. This sounds green, like the fingerpaintings of a kindergartener. They see the Monet pieces on the walls outside the classroom, and they really want to make the same art, but they lack the skills and knowledge to do so. So instead, they do what they can... fingerpaint. All of their shapes and colors accidentally start running into each other, and after a while the scattered splotches of vibrant color turns into one mass of brown. Likewise, while Frailty of the Flesh's opening riffset may initially grab you, the song and album eventually starts to run into one indistinguishable mess of Kill 'em All rehashes.
I also feel like I have to mention the vocals, which I think suck. I can't tell if he isn't trying, or if he is just some friend of the musicians who wanted to be in the band, but lacked any sort of instrumental talent, so they let him be the vocalist. For all I know, he was just sick when he recorded his lines, and he usually sounds like a raging behemoth from the depths of hell when running on all cylinders, but that doesn't excuse the lazy performance here. I understand that not everybody can sport the range of Rob Halford or the intensity of Blitz or the harshness off Mille Petrozza, but some people just lack in every category. I can look past the silly lyrics, I can ignore the recycled riffing, but I just can't trivialize a crappy vocal performance, especially when the music as dull as this. When riffs, leads, and drum patterns are as pedestrian as about 80% of these riffs are, the vocals will naturally jump to the forefront of your mind. In this case, it's a negative impression. It seems the vocalist has jumped ship recently, and this should hopefully signal bigger and better things for the band.
The one thing that I had initially thought was the saving grace of Awaiting Evil was the solos. Doubtlessly, these guitarists know their instruments well enough to construct a good amount of memorable harmonies and unconventional chord fingerings in a thrash context, but it's their hyperspeed leads and solos that immediately catch your attention. After a few songs, I began to realize why, and that's because they are mixed so unnecessarily high that it'd be impossible not to perk up attentively. Okay, I'm glad that you guys have pinpointed your greatest strength, but doing the auditory equivalent of strapping a big neon sign to it's back is nothing short of irritating.
Now, I mean this next statement not as an insult, but merely an observation. Hatchet reminds me of Trivium. A group of young guys heard a sound they really liked. They yearned of being a part of the scene, so they started up a band (isn't that why we all start?) and did their damnedest to do justice to their heroes. In the end, their individual homage turned out as little more than an uninspired and dull regurgitation of their signature styles. If you've heard Kill 'em All, Testament's first four albums, or any mid era Exodus, you aren't missing anything at all. Hatchet's first album is ultimately another pointless, if capable, addition to the thrash metal scene. They have the skill and technique to play proficiently, now they just need to channel their energy into writing.
Well, like in the title, this is one of the better new thrash albums that have come out. You probably if your looking at this review have checked out other new thrash bands (Merciless Death, Evile, Warbringer, Bonded by Blood, etc). What makes this album better than the rest of them? Well first of all the songwriting is quite noticeably a step above other retro thrash bands. These guys know their way around a guitar. A lot of harmonized minor and diminished chords are used, and most of the songs have frequent tempo and key changes. The guitar tone itself is very similar to Alex Skolnick at times also.
Hatchet starts off this release with “Darkening Skies”, which is executed a la “Fade to Black” with a dash of “Good Mourning/Black Friday”. Obviously as just said the Metallica and Megadeth influence is prevalent here, which is nice for a change because I don’t hear a lot of Megadeth in newer thrash bands.
Next up is “Frailty of the Flesh”, a straight up thrasher, with quite a few riffs, and random harmonized sections coming out of nowhere. The solo on this song is quite impressive, one the best on the album. You can hear the Metallica influence again with the frenzied tapping and fast speed picking.
For the next song “Sealed Fate”, we hear a slow mid paced intro, and then the song rapidly speeds up. The first riff after the intro in this song is more of a death metal style, I actually thought that it sounded a little bit like Cannibal Corpse’s “Hammer Smashed Face” But after that we go into a full on thrash song, with a lot of harmonized riffs. Think if Iron Maiden went thrash, that’s what this song sound like.
Next is one of the best songs on the album, “Frozen Hell”. This song automatically looks good. I mean isn’t “Frozen Hell” a cool name? This is also notably one of the most technical songs on the album. The first other thrash band I though off when I hear this song is Heathen, with the harmonized solo and pattern of ascending minor chords.
Next! “Attack Imminent” isn’t one of the better songs on the album, but it again shows another influence, Paradox. This song sounds similar to “Heresy”. The solo on this song is obviously Slayer, any person that listens to thrash at least a little bit could agree with me on this.
“Morlocks Tomb” (What kind of name is Morlock? That sounds like a troll name or something) is another one of the standout tracks on the album, again showing Hatchet’s technical ability, with a lot of riff changes. Notice also how the end of the song is going fast and then gradually gets slower and slower. The solo on this song is shredding and more melodic solo.
The next song “Strom the Gates” again shows some Slayer influence, with a lot of the riffs sounding like a mix between “Angel of Death” and “Psychopathy Red” (I think this may have came out before Psycopathy Red though so maybe It’s the other way around. Imagine that, a legendary thrash band like Slayer taking influence from Hatchet lololol) Anyway this song has a more progressive structure post solo, using fast triplets similar to Heathen or Cyclone Temple or Metallica etc.
“The Dead Will March” starts off sort of like “Sealed Fate”, moving from a mid paced intro a slightly faster thrasher. The riffs on this song are some of the better ones on the album actually, but what ruins this song is the sloppy, badly executed drum fills. This is why I don’t really listen to this track is because of the annoying constant drum fills.
The album closes with the title track “Awaiting Evil”. This track starts off with a clean Testament guitar tone intro similar to “Darkening Skies” and before going into thrash. The drumming is significantly better on this song than on the previous song although the snare needs some work. Guitar on this song is ok, pretty good riffing. The 1st solo isn’t very good, but the 2nd solo is a lot better, sounding like a mix between Metallica and Testament. Well, that’s all the songs.
If you actually want to hear the way the band sounds, here ya go. The vocals are interesting, sounding like typical thrash vocals but with more snarl and a few Destruction screams here and there. Clean guitar tone sounds a lot like Testament, distorted guitar tone sounds like watered down Municipal Waste (There are even some Municipal Waste riffs here and there). The bass is rarely audible and sounds kind of choppy, but it is in time with the rest of the band, so the bassist is pretty good overall. Finally is the drumming. Sadly the drumming on this album doesn’t quite keep up with the rest of the band. There are way to many fills. If you listen to this album, almost every song has the same fills. And they all sound very similar. At points they are actually very annoying, the fills, which is why I can’t listen to Hatchet for very long periods of time. The tone also leaves something to be desired. The whole drum kit sounds pretty stale. So overall the vocals and guitar are good, bass needs a little work, drumming needs some major work.
I’m actually looking forward to a new Hatchet release, if the band decides to keep going. (They just need to get a new drummer). So if you want some above average retro thrash, Hatchet’s “Awaiting Evil” is right up your alley.
Hatchet fits right with the 80’s crossover/thrash bands by taking early Suicidal Tendencies and mixing in a little bit of Slayer with some Testament like melodies and harmonies. Pull in some guitar solos that go over to good old 80’s power metal, and acoustic breaks that harken back to 80’s glam metal, and that’s a lot of 80’s all wrapped up together. It’s catchy too, and full of youthful energy, if a little on the loose side. However, the Slayer, Testament, power metal and glam tend to get lost on some of the more cliche points that begin to sound less 80’s, and more like other bands that came out recently, especially those yelped vocals which get a little out of breath every now and then.
“Awaiting Evil” stands on the young energy and the catchy hooks, but I can see that only lasting for so long. I’d personally like to see Hatchet crank up the most notable points, those being the Slayer nastiness, the Testament melodies, the power metal solo sections and the glam metal acoustics. Now that sounds entertaining.
Originally posted at www.waytooloud.com