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20 years have passed since the Connecticut thrashers I.N.C. parted ways, but nevertheless they have decided to piece themselves back together and give it another go. This is not an unusual occurrence in recent times, with many of the lesser known, cult acts from the 80s doing the same due to the recent surge in the genre's popularity; a wave of younger, internet-studied fans diving into obscurity for authentic experiences and ripening the prospect. Razorback ('87) and The Visitor ('88) were not enormously popular ventures, but both were heavy on riffs and light on flavor, and they did leave a taste on the buds of firm potential.
A lot of the snarky flair from their previous albums is missing from this EP, and that's rather sad, because they once had a fairly unique perspective on the style, charismatic if not colossal. Three of the original band members have returned: vocalist Dennis Gergely, and guitarists Erik Barath and Tony Fabrizi; and they've got a few heavy hitters joining them, including drummer Dennis Leeflang who has worked with a number of artists in and out of metal, and a guest spot by Guns & Roses guitarist 'Bumblefoot' (who has worked with Leeflang before also). To be sure, Bleed the Line retains a measure of it's 'thrash' values, but what I'm hearing here is very heavily in the vein of 90s thrash/groove like Exhorder and Pantera, with almost all of the band's thrifty, characteristic 80s riffing gone to a duller palette of predictable if professional thrashing.
The first two tracks, "God Loves Violence" and "Bleed the Line" are crushing but not all that interesting, sounding similar to Sacred Reich or the faster, bludgeoning material from Phil Anselmo and crew, with Gergely shifting between his mid ranged ballast and a metallic scream, which frankly, I rather enjoyed (the screams), and would like to hear a lot more of. "Rain" builds a massive, crushing groove to start, but then devolves into some rather vapid groove/heavy rock that once again recalls the Texas tyrants. "Full Metal Jacket" begins with a sample from the film of the same name, a sample that's probably been done to death, and then another faster paced track that will make you want to howl 'fucking hostile!' at some point. "If I Were President" is the most interesting track on the release, a mix of brickhouse shitkicking thrash with some doomed grooves, but it's still not a standout, and by the time "Fueled by Regret" busts out into its chugga chugga metalcore/thrash riff, I was already fueled by that very same emotion.
It's pretty bad, I'm not going to lie, but perhaps the biggest disappointment with this is that I just hear so little of the original I.N.C. in this sound. Granted, with any 20-year career gulf and some lineup changes, I expect to hear something at least marginally different than the original incarnation. That's a given. Yet Bleed the Line could have been released by any half-witted bar band worshiping Pantera, Skinlab, Slayer and Machine Head, and the Indestructible Noise Command that I remember is so much better than what was written for this. It's not the worst thing I've heard; the mix of the EP is polished and hard hitting, but the spunk and spirit of these old schoolers who once wrote "Dry Heaves" and "Razorback" is almost completely absent, and I, for one, will miss it...