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It would appear I was a little slow on the uptake with the rise of Philadelphia tech-thrashers Vektor; "Outer Isolation" is the second superlative release of theirs, which originally released in 2011 has only recently come to my attention thanks to the tip of a friend and this reissue courtesy of Earache. The 'retro-thrash' scene, which has noticeably (and thankfully) declined in size in recent times, produced a barrage of acts so intent on (r)aping the music and fashion style of their 80s heroes while ignoring any demands for innovation that I can confidently claim Vektor to be hands down the finest band to emerge from under that dubious tag. Infact, even labelling them as such feels an insult to the skill, integrity and drive found in these eight tracks for "Outer Isolation" is more than the end point of a scene focussed on historical revivalism, it could well be the starting point of a new, intensely technical thrash metal evolution worshipping the quality of this band and album.
Ten minute opening tracks aren't the norm in thrash, but "Cosmic Cortex" isn't the norm. Welcome to the futuristic world Vektor project through their imagery and lyrics where off-kilter riffs crash head-on into the strained screeches of David DiSanto and subversive rhythms flow in the blood off all those it inhabits. The atmospheric spacey sounds which herald the opening breed into the clean chords of a single guitar and not before long, jarring fractured riffs of the like rarely heard outside the domains of tech thrash lords Voivod or Coroner. Retro-thrash has uptil now simply been an arms race - he who riffs the fastest wins and all that, but not until now has a band thought to distribute the fast palm-muted riffs between jagged rhythmic guitar and drum passages and mini solos which shout out at the listener like projectiles from a passing space drone. This is bringing the danger and unexpected back into thrash, the way it always was, after a period when it became as predictable as any vacuous chart-dwelling pop act.
"Cosmic Cortex" boasts several interlocking sections where Vektor make great usage of both guitars and bass as they head off separately from one another before all returning to basefor the song's furious chorus. "Echoless Chambers" displays a keen sense for building tension as tempos gently rise and fall in the opening three minutes before a volley of solos, which remind of those in Megadeth's classic "Hangar 18", and some brilliant drumrolls from Blake Anderson deliver the song to greatness. "Tetrastructural Minds" bursts forth from a whiplash-inducing scream from DiSanto into some of the fastest moments on the album; I am struck by the virtuosity of many of the riffs that follow as both the speed and more pronounced bridge section interlock to provide so much in the songs' five minutes. "Venus Project" boasts a middle section that ups the sci-fi quotient, both in tone of the vertiginous solos and the jazzy chill-out we are granted. "Dark Creations, Dead Creators", the shortest and most direct of the eight songs, brings to mind some of the fastest segments of Death Angel's "The Ultra-Violence" (a classic all of it's own); "Fast Paced Society" is not afraid to use the blastbeat in between flashes of neck board dexterity and an intriguing pattern of tempering the frantic procession with chanted dissonant vocals, while the closing title track describes the band in one: deep and considered but with an explosive edge and desire to rip your head off at twenty paces.
As befits all bands at the top of their game best use is made of a production job which allows them to stand out - the bass is plentifully apparent, the drums comfortably real sounding and the vocals a nasally shriek far removed from the standard thrash shout/howl, but it is the sharpened clarity of the guitar tones where the benefits of a band having matured through three demos over a 5 year period really shines through. These have created an already recognisable 'Vektor sound', a vital ingredient in the desire for longevity.
Bold albums demand bold statements. Vektor are the best thrash band out there right now. Take it from me you don't want to miss out any longer.
Originally written for www.Rockfreaks.net