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A few years back I spent a lot of time trolling the Archives for bands that had been labeled as some sort of combination of death metal and crust punk. The concept initially became really fascinating to me when looking back at the old-school Swedish scene. It sort of boggled my mind that so many Stockholm death metal bands incorporated significant kang punk and hardcore influences into their signature death metal goodness, while just on the other side of the narrow country, all sorts of dudes from the Gothenburg melodeath scene were involved in really abrasive thrashy crust bands that drew from this same set of influences. I know how divorced the Gothenburg and Stockholm scenes were at that time, but the opportunity for crusty, death-metally goodness was there all along but never really blossomed like it could have. I knew there had to be other people thinking this hybrid would be a cool idea, so I dug further.
While I found a lot of success in the US and Europe, it seemed there were very few bands playing death/crust in Latin America, despite the generally well-saturated population of metalheads in a lot of Latin American countries. Metralla were one of the few I came across, and the results are interesting, but kind of a mixed bag. The band is pretty cool, but it's sort of hard to gauge exactly how much crust is really in their sound.
The band plays a thrashy sort of old-school extreme metal that rides the line between thrash and death. While there is a strong punky feel throughout the whole album, it's difficult to pin down whether these elements are the result of a band pulling from older crossover-ish thrash influence, or if they're starting with old-school thrashy death metal and purposefully adding in more modern crust elements. Due to the band members' backgrounds (i.e. playing in a lot of long-established death metal/brutal death metal bands and a few more blackened projects) I'd be likely to guess it's the former. In any case, the riffs are mostly low-string chugs with some lower pitched tremolo. Not a lot of guitar theatrics, with most of the riffs being centered around just a couple of notes. The drumming is also quite basic, with simple thrash beats carrying the bulk of the album, though sometimes more punishing snare/double bass patterns emerge.
Vocals on this album were handled by bassist Hugo, who employs a classic mid-ranged growl that gets a recording treatment that's several degrees dirtier than the rest of the album's production, which is otherwise pretty squeaky-clean. It sounds to me like a clear attempt to add a layer of grime to a mix that's otherwise maybe a bit too polished for the genre these guys are playing in. The clarity of the instrumentation is nice and all but probably not entirely necessary given the lack of complexity in the riffing. Hugo's not, bad, but like the riffing, his fairly one-dimensional performance tends to wear out its welcome on the bands too-long songs. Just after this came out, the band found themselves a new vocalist and has yet to release anything with Philfrost at the mic, so time will tell whether or not it was a wise decision.
Metralla write some really potent riffs, such as the mosh-happy opener to “Anti Heroes”. They also show a good deal of expertise in chaining their riffs together to form coherent, well-constructed songs. However. Given the simplicity of everything, I feel like they drag their songs out just a little too long. It's not a crime against humanity to write an album of thrashy goodness that all sticks to generally the same quick tempo, but when your songs tend to range from 5 to 7+ minutes, you really need to have more variation in pace and riffing style, with simply a higher riff count in this sort of music. Had these guys chopped this album down to about 30 minutes I think I'd like it more than I do.
While I'm still on the fence as to whether this is a genuine example of death/crust or just a band playing death metal so oldschool they can't help but let the hardcore elements play a significant role, I do know that these guys have the chops to make a really great death/thrash record. Maybe their next one will both answer my question and do a better job of satisfying my hunger for ripping riffage.