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In thrash, bands are often divided in two very separate categories: those that perform tribute songs, and those that make sure they don’t perform tribute songs. When a band attempts the classic genre nowadays, it usually ends in some piss-poor Exodus worship with no spice at all, yet “Svarta Zvrhlost” is just one of those releases that makes you wish more of its kind would emerge; thrash metal isn’t just represented, but also juiced and brought to its own destructive limits for your head-banging enjoyment. Tell those Bay Area clowns to pack their bags! Slovakia now has the good stuff!
Four words can describe this release indefinitely: technical thrash with balls. Right from the beginning, sweeping riffs focusing on speed and heaviness quickly slice your listening space like bullets in a warzone. If you somehow survived that murderous violence, a blast of vicious percussion fires rapid bass pedals and complex fills while blistering solos totally annihilate everything in sight; this is what Majster Kat is all about. Boring thrash is not welcome here, and Majster Kat makes damn sure all those potential problems are weeded out from their instrumental initiation. Oh yea, good riffs are infinite in number. Seriously, you won’t find a single one leeching your pleasure away.
Majster Kat can easily bend in and out of insane patterns utilizing technical riffs, puncturing bass lines, and sensational percussion without strain, but they also add in some personal perks that are completely beneficial toward their chaotic sound. Melodic-laden riffs are frequently used to connect channels that are bursting with thrash, yet doing so paves many new roads for Majster Kat to travel on; it’s a wonderful bridge between two separate formations successfully becoming one. Personally, if I had to choose my favorite quality of "Svarta Zvrhlost," it would definitely be the vocals. Slymák’s voice has this crazy, bombastic pitch to it, almost like he’s been locked up in a nuthouse and somehow escaped. I’d say he sounds very much like Vio-lence’s Sean Killian, but Slymák just has this menacing edge that literally makes him sound like a psychopathic madman! Great thrash with twisted barks? Yes please!
Bands like Evile or Blood Tsunami can boast about their retroactive approach on pseudo-Overkill worship, but setting aside jibber-jabber, Majster Kat easily pounds them all to dust; they exercise a REAL thrash edge that's both pestering and technical, yet the whole group sounds completely original when doing so, which is very hard to find in such a particular genre. As a whole, this record simply has large layers of girth working to keep it warm like Luke Skywalker in that camel-like creature, and when obeying thrash's rules, Majster Kat makes a release you just can't put down. "Svata Zvrhlost" slays, and you'd be an absolute nut to ignore one of the finest slabs of post-1980s thrash available in a scene that just can't seem to ignite itself.
This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com
I've been saying that thrash is starting to have a little bit of a return recently. Not so much by the old school legends, such as Exodus and Slayer, or by the countless hordes of Metallica worshippers popping up all over the place. Instead this revival of the style has so far been achieved by bands which incorporate thrash into their own sound, such as the black/thrash of Norway's Imbalance or Imagika's Power/Thrash. Now, with Slovakia's Majster Kat, it seems as if someone is finally standing up and writing a straight up thrash record. This sounds old school, it has frequent tempo changes, strong audible bass, not to mention it has real thrash riffs. This about as Thrash as a band can possibly get... well, apart from the soft sections. But hey, it makes things interesting.
Majster Kat play a striking style of thrash, which frequently shifts from fairly fast sections, that sound like Megadeth trying to emulate Dark Angel, or on occasion Vio-lence, to mid-paced melodic riffs, which basically sound like the hooks of Metallica, played with a more aggressive streak. Generally, songs consist of the band switching between these approaches every 30 seconds or so, meaning that you're not going to get bored listening to this. To top things off, you've got a vocalist who sounds like Neil Turbin trying to sing in the same vocal patterns of Sadus' Darren Travis on Illusions. Basically, Svata Zvrhlost borrows from all the walks of thrash and creates a sound that is clearly inspired by them all, but still sounds fresh and new. It's not just referencing older stuff, it's taking all these different styles of metal and merging them into an original work that sounds like it was from the era, and if it was, it would have fitted in perfectly, without worshipping any particular band.
Well, that isn't completely true... they don’t sound like any single band, but there's a few riffs that seem to almost be stolen, such as Pod Gilotinou's first riff being extremely similar to Megadeth's In My Darkest Hour (or something else similar, I know I've heard the riff, and that's the closest I came when briefly looking through my collection). Along with this there’s a Vio-lence riff here, and a Sadus riff there. But apart from a couple of these moments, this album sounds like it was made a band who has been in the business for years, and have crafted their own sound, rather than a band only just releasing their debut.
So, along with a solidly traditional, but original and interesting sound, the band does a couple of other things, just to make things interesting, because despite the bands usual music being quite enjoyable and hardly boring, it is nearly an hour long; Which is pretty long for a generally straight forward album like this. Every now and then they'll drop out all of the fast aggressive metal, and switch to a nice melodic break. But don't worry, there's only a couple of these over the album, and they're short, and if anything make the songs more interesting, rather than drawing them out in unnecessary progressive sections, such as the break in the middle of Pád. Along with this, there are also a couple of short acoustic interludes, which are all quite tasteful, intricate and mellow. They don't exactly fit on an album of this nature, but they still sound nice and manage create quite a lot of atmosphere, despite feeling a little out of place being surrounded by some serious brutality.
All the members certainly know their way around their instruments. Each performing with great levels of skill, but held within the constraints of thrash, so don't expect any long drawn out instrumental passages. Supposedly this album has been 2 or 3 years in the making, so I guess that explains why all the songs are so well crafted, and are generally devoid of bad riffs. Due to the guitarists Los and Lukas laying off the speed to allow their very high quality harmonies and melodies to shine, there's not exactly a constant barrage of fantastically hard to play riffs, but there's quite a few scattered about. Solo wise this album isn’t all that memorable, there’s some slow ones, and there’s some fast ones, but I couldn’t tell you how one went without listening to it just minutes beforehand. They don't exactly have a lot of personality or originality in them, and they don’t simply shred your face of either. They just kind of happen. But they are technically well played, they just don't add much to the songs, other than a good melodic, yet unoriginal solo.
Bubonix and Tapyr both impressed me on drums and bass respectively from the get go. Bubonix is a little bit more out in front, and generally more inventive than "real" 80's thrash bands, and really sticks out as the only slightly modern sounding element of the band. However the production on the drums in brilliant, and sounds perfect for their goal, while they may draw from some modern influences, they don’t sound that way. As far as I see it this is a huge positive. I've always thought that older thrash bands could have been that little bit more awesome if their drummers weren’t so bland. Why the hell do you thing Dave Lombardo and Gene Hoglan are so well known and globally worshipped, and say Ray Hartmann from the first Annihilator is not (who is a good drummer, but boring as hell on that album).
Bassist Tapyr stood out, not because of his technicality, of which there is a lot of, but because of his huge sound, standing out nearly as much of the guitars. Which may be somewhat related to them being little bit on the weak side, but still, it's just another element that this band hasn't forgotten to load into their well crafted sound.
There’s clearly a lot of depth to this bands music, leading to the songs having quite a long life span.
Slymák is a curious vocalist to say the least. He's generally very high pitched, and pretty fast in his delivery. Sometimes he has a little bit a snarl in there, but for the main part its high pitched and quite jumpy in delivery. Now, all the lyrics are in Slovakian or whatever they speak over there, which is a little annoying, because I can't understand a word he says, but to be honest, with my brief communications with the band, English lyrics would have been choppy at best. He picks quite interesting vocal patterns, clearly showing an influence from the faster and more aggressive (and generally less predictable) styles of thrash vocals. Notice that I've only ever said that he's interesting, never that he’s good, because really, he is a little on the annoying side. The band is too smooth and melodic for his jumpy crazy sound to really work. It's like having Sean Killian do vocals for Testament, they just don't match. I could see him being a enjoyable vocalist, just not with this band.
The final thing that makes this album so enjoyable is the production, it just sounds so natural, the guitars are a little bit high pitched and low in volume, but they're gritty enough for it to pass. The bass sounds a little bit like a rubber band on an ice cream container, but it makes up for this little problem with sheer volume. The drums are a little bit loud, but they sound fantastic, and it doesn't even sound like Bubonix bass drums are triggered, all in all they have a very natural sound.
Really, this is a very good album, and when you consider that this is a debut it makes me wonder what this band is capable of, because this just feels perfectly in the spirit of what they are trying to do. From the bands image to production style, this just screams 80's thrash. It truly captures the era, and merges all the good parts into a singular sound, which is surprisingly flowing considering all the ideas that the band has. It doesn't sound jumpy or like a mishmash of styles, they've really merged into a couple of enjoyable and original styles, namely the melodic one, and the more aggressive one. This leads to a good spread of songs, each with their own feel. Intelligently, the band has loaded a lot of their faster and heavier stuff into the later part of the album, to keep people interested until the very end.
There are a couple of negatives, which I don't want to dwell on because I have gotten a lot of pleasure out of this album, but there’s a few riffs here and there which are just way too similar to other well established ones, which do tend to dig in the back of your mind. Not to mention the vocals can be frustrating. And the acoustic interludes (more noticeably Veƒný odpoƒinok and Zaƒiatok konca, which are located in the middle of some aggressive tracks), while fantastically played and written, really don't fit in too well. But really that's it for the negatives. Svata Zvrhlost is very well written and performed. Recommended for anyone who wants to hear some new thrash that doesn't need to borrow from other genres to get you headbanging.