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The debut album from Polish thrashers Rusted Brain, “High Voltage Thrash,” manages to incorporate the spirit and tone of the late-80s scene quite well and certainly leaves a lasting impact for their future success.
Yet another band in the thriving retro-thrash scene, the sound here is pretty easy to identify immediately. This is straight from the late 80s Bay Area scene and really imparts that style here quite often with the material here taking a lot from that style. The riff-work is that same, dynamic quality that was found in those old-school days with the majority of the tracks employing a tight, up-tempo series of densely-picked patterns that keep the intensity up throughout the track as the few small-yet-distinct rhythm changes continue to pile on the speed it initially carries on through. Mostly, though, the songs are based on rather frantic speed-driven rhythms that flow through rather intense patterns that careen through blistering tempos quite readily, making this high-velocity album regardless of the length of the tracks. There’s not a lot of chances for riff-work or dazzling displays of technicality but instead adopts a refreshing punk-like mentality of keeping the tracks streamlined to the point of eliminating any sort of excessive or dragging riffing as the blinding nature of the tracks keeps it charging along. Indeed, it manages to up the ante on the brutality here as well by showcasing some pounding, frenzied riff-patterns that bring in far more intensity to the material than their more relaxed, sprawling material which brings in a little slower series of riffs that offer a sort of buffer against those harder, more intense riffs and forging what is the only variety in the album to speak of. The rest of the material is what’s to be expected from this sort of genre where it’s aping the sound and feel of the late 80s style thrash scene, led by surging, clanking bass-lines that are loud, boisterous and certainly generate the thumping bottom-end required for the genre yet never intrudes on the material as a whole as it lets the guitars take center stage in the rhythms so they can careen through their paces quite well. As well, the drumming is certainly in fine form of simply pounding out their rhythms and delving into the blasting double-bass patterns when necessary but also knows to never overcome the rest of the material as the primary pattern featured is a simplistic pound that keeps time rather than showboats a series of dexterous fills and rolls. It adds a speed and drive to the more intense tracks in that there’s a furious, thumping pound in the bottom end yet manages to keep a steady time when not required to go ballistic at all. These are certainly well and good features found in the old-school thrash genre.
As for the album itself, there’s not a whole lot of defining features found here. The main issue with this one is the fact that it’s quite short and really straightforward in how it presents itself which is both a great blessing and a curse. The good in this is that there’s a no-nonsense factor that’s imminently appealing in this pretty much delivering exactly what’s promised without too many exceptions throughout as the material is certainly high-speed thrash metal with an old-school touch to the riffing and performances which certainly sets this in good graces for those that approve of material like that. The issue comes with the fact that there’s not really a lot of chances for the band to really explore much of this style on this release as the songs here struggle to maintain a three-minute running time which severely saps away a lot of their musical chops confining the material to such brief lengths. Most of the songs fire away with relatively little riff-changes or dynamics at all in favor of a streamlined approach that’s immensely gratifying as well as troubling with this routinely finishing a track and diving into the next one right when the last one was getting interesting. The speed these run through is another factor in that regard as it never allows them to really develop or explore the potential riffs within these rhythms as it winds through the traditional patterns so rapidly that it condenses these patterns into much briefer songs without really exploring these in more depth despite plenty of opportunity to really bring out more involved dynamics. There’s also the fact that, despite being firmly entrenched in the old-school style, the more modern-sounding influences here awkwardly collide with the rest of the music when they attempt to go into the more familiar patterns found in those older bands as the slow, epic-paced intro they try here completely fails to mesh with the rest of the tightly-picked rhythms that are featured in the rest of the tracks, and even more confusing is the decision to utilize the sound effects from a movie as an intro without the accompanying visuals to make the track work, making it seem like an awkward transition into the rest of the album. Beyond these issues, the only other part to worry about is the vocalist which is quite laughable and really isn’t all that impressive, stuck in a one-note shout throughout the material that doesn’t display any range, strains to hit notes outside its’ register and comes off whiny and aggravating at times. It’s not a detrimental issue but one that should be fixed for them to carry on as the music is quite good, though this could be a hindrance if left untreated.
Despite being so short, there’s a lot to like from the tracks here. From the beginning, ‘Intro (Apocalypse Now)’ is movie-sampled laughter, gunfire and explosions with grandiose classical music, being quite ill-advised as an opening as the sound-effects from the titular movie don’t mesh without the visuals to accompany it. Proper first song ‘Caught in the Fire’ sets the stage to come with pulsating riff-work, pounding drumming and intense workouts delivering tons of energy in a short space, effectively making a great impression about the quality of work here. Getting a chance to deliver some longer arrangements, ‘Bloodpath’ utilizes a steady, charging intro and mid-tempo riffing with steady paces and fiery leads with plenty of tight thrash chugging and straightforward riff patterns for a solid back-to-back effort. ‘Waiting for Death’ brings pounding drumming and sharp high-intensity thrashing throughout the mid-tempo pace with frenetic rhythms and solid soloing into one of the album’s stand-out tracks with it setting up the goodness to come. The album’s best track, ‘Juggler’ is an absolute rager with tight, furious riffing and pounding drumming with frantic speed throughout fueled by frantic patterns and incessant energy delivering a brutal blast of thrash and really making the most of its time. The fine follow-up, ‘Terrorzone’ again loads up the brutality with frantic riff-patterns and furious drumming keep intense, pulsating energy throughout with tight chugging and brutal rhythms into the solo section. ‘Executor’ struggles a little with steady chugging intro with frantic rhythms, pounding drumming and tight thrashing that continues the intense rhythms through the soloing and into the melody-laden finale, but it would be a let-down against what came before it. ‘High Voltage Drunk’ is more old-school styled that brings in the swirling riff-work and plodding paces that gives way to raging riff-work and tight drumming with dynamic leads and fiery solos amid the high-speed thrashing, offering a fine throwback-styled track. The blazing ‘Burn 'Em’ tight, furious riff-work and pounding drumming careening through blistering paces, frantic tempos and intense rhythms that stay firmly on the throttle throughout, ending things on a solid note.
This is the basic definition of no-frills styled music played with enthusiasm and energy throughout, which is what’s the case here as this one really seems to offer up no true deviations from this style at all. While there may be some flaws present here because of this, the biggest one being the shortness of the tracks keeping this from really getting a chance to explore what it can really do, there’s still plenty to like here that makes this a rather strong look for those into the revival thrash scene or Euro-centered thrash in general.
Rusted Brain are a four piece thrash metal outfit that were founded within Warsaw, Poland in 2009. The group recorded and released their demo, Juggle, in 201l, which was the same year they won a rock contest. The band have done a small amount of touring since the release of their demo, and have now followed up with their debut full-length album, High Voltage Thrash. What do these newcomers offer to the ever growing thrash scene?
The intro track is a comically over-done, unexpected, over-the-top opener for the material. What tamely starts out with the sounds of rustling, children singing and dogs barking, quickly escalates into an invasion of whirling helicopter blades, exploding bombs, gunfire, and the icing on the cake... the operatic "Ride of the Valkyries" by Richard Wagner. Obviously, for those unaware, this snippet is taken directly from the movie "Apocalypse Now", thus the parentheses subtitle to the intro track. However, without the immediate cinematic visual, the audio comes across hysterical by itself, especially as the introduction to an album.
That being said, the material recovers and bursts into a ferocious storm of breakneck thrash riffs. Immediately, the content comes on strong with throwback influences to the early Metallica days, more so in the vocals and drums than anywhere else. As the title of the album promises, what is provided here is conveyed with high voltage energy and done in style with crystal clear audio quality. The layering and mixing are solid, and someone had the good idea to give the vocals a hint of an echo to distance from the instruments.
Despite the previously mentioned, an extensive majority of the actual instrumental composure is your standard headbang-until-your-brain-hemorrhages thrash riffing and blast beating. Both of the guitars, when playing simultaneously, are nearly undifferentiated and plain in tone, save a slight overdrive distortion. Despite that fact, the lead guitar does happen to offer up an array of solos that are quick, slick and creative. As for the rhythm guitar, the element typically sticks to short power chord riffs that chug along in time with the various drum patterns that line the background of the content. The drumming itself shows massive potential, coming equipped with gunning double bass footwork, fluid rolls and promising, imaginative beats. However, the patterns tend to relapse to average at best one-two blast beats that work different parts of the drum kit. Hands down, the greatest aspect of the material instrumentally is the bass line. Whether it's plugging along to the main guitar riff, rising above for a small solo, or working frantically behind the scenes, it's always driving the album with a hollow distortion and exceedingly upbeat tempo that finds itself outdoing the guitars and, at times, even the drumming.
High Voltage Thrash is an album that can definitely stand on its own in the modern thrash world, but that doesn't mean that the content is not in need of some work. More memorable, thrashy hooks and a more recognizable, distinctive instrument tone could potentially drive the content to a whole new level. Rusted Brain have the characteristic vocals down to a tee, however James Hetfield they may sound at times, but they are a definite breath of fresh air versus the all too standard vocals associated with the genre to date. Worth a listen to thrash enthusiasts and those in need of some refreshing vocal work.
Digital Download Provided by: Vlad Promotion
- Villi Thorne