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The Showdown are no strangers to the thrash metal genre. Even their first release had some hintings at what their later sound would be. That being said, they did it best with their previous release, Back Breaker. Their latest, Blood in the Gears, is more or less a continuation of that sound, albeit not as well done. The instruments are a lot more melodic and Bunton's growls seem to be weaker. (Maybe he's losing his voice?) However, the thematic content of this album is a lot "meatier" than previous releases. Dealing with the American life-style, greed, and struggle, it beats out the rest of their other thematic endeavors.
Don't get me wrong, The Showdown is a beacon of light in a world of Christian metal where good bands are few and far between, but this album is by no means their best work.
The first single off this release is perhaps one of its strongest song as well. "The Man Named Hell" is an insanely clever/technical intro begins as a motorcycle revs up, begins to idle, and eventually dies out to the sound of a guitar riff mimicking the idle. A great melody, and wicked vocals from Bunton make this track really shine. The guitar solo is very "Dimebag-esque", if you're into that sort of thing.
"Blood in the Gears" and "Heavy Lies the Crown" give you possibly the best breakdowns on the album. Two of the band's best songs, all-around. Great solos, technicality, and very tight sound make it heavy. Bunton seems to have his Back Breaker screams back for these two, which is MORE than welcome. Reaching sometimes into his lower-range, he proves to be a very versatile vocalist.
The two most controversial tracks (lyrically, at least) are "The Crooked Path" and "Bring it Down". The whole "American Lifestyle" critique is more or less where that comes in. The former song being a metal version of a Michael Moore movie, basically. The latter being undeniably The Showdown's fastest song. Both songs show off just how meaty the Showdown can be with their lyrics, but, in a feat of sheer brilliance, also give Jeremiah a chance to show off his skills on the bass.
The other tracks are pretty decent. They're what you'd expect from The Showdown at this point, which is kind of disappointing that they didn't really try and evolve their sound even slightly. It seems they've found a niche and are content with staying just the way they are.
While not as good as Back Breaker, The Showdown proves they know their way around their proclaimed genre. Let's hope we get at least one more release out of these Southern boys before they disband, leaving SolidState with one less good band in the face of their lesser bands.