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...and Justice for Aspid - 90%

kluseba, February 7th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2016, Digital, Metal Race Records (Bandcamp)

If this outstanding technical thrash metal record had been released a few years earlier by an American band, it would be considered a classic or even one of the greatest thrash metal records of all times today. However, this album was released on vinyl limited to one thousand copies by an unknown label from Latvia in the early nineties and was therefore completely overlooked. The album gained a cult following that was increased by a short reunion of the band a few years ago, the release of a re-mastered version and finally a digital release on Bandcamp. Aspid finally got the attention it deserved two decades after the initial release of this monster.

In a time when thrash metal bands were reinventing themselves to remain commercially successful, the quartet from Volgodonsk in Southwest Russia played technical thrash metal inspired by the genre's most defining records in the mid- to late eighties. However, Aspid managed to develop its very own sound based upon three components. The technical skills of every musician involved are particularly outstanding but never get too progressive since the songs still have a lot of coherency, energy and groove. Secondly, the songs are all rather long, focusing on extended instrumental passages instead of even attempting to craft shorter, catchier or calmer tracks. Thirdly, this uncompromising attitude is also reflected in the fact that there aren't many vocals as this album includes two entirely instrumental tracks as well as several songs that take a lot of time before the vocalist starts his vivid, raw and angry performance. The few lyrics are however quite interesting, proving that the band values quality over quantity.

Another element this album has going for it is its coherent vibe from start to finish, consisting of an angry, desperate and technical potpourri without any fillers. The gritty production adds to the record's atmosphere but isn't so bad that it would take away from the stunning musicianship. Without probably knowing it, the producers did the perfect job for this type of music. The memorable cover artwork, looking simplistic at first contact but offering more and more details as one takes a closer look, was designed in the same spirit. Everything seems to fit perfectly here.

My favorite songs would be the menacingly grooving band anthem ''Он пришёл (Аспид)'' that kicks the record off on a very high note, the mean monster ''К цели одной'' and the brilliant instrumental closer and title song ''Кровоизлияние'' that doesn't need any vocals because the four instrumentalists shine so brightly that they deserve all our attention. Bonus track ''Война'', apparently recorded in 2010 when the group reformed, blends in perfectly and proves that Aspid has aged very well.

It's a shame that the band didn't get the breakthrough it deserved and that its short-lived reunion didn't give them the second chance they should have got. If you read any metal magazine listing the greatest thrash albums of all times and they don't have this gem in their list, you can consider this magazine as yellow paper press. While this album here might not have reinvented the genre, it defines technical thrash metal like few or no other album does and the raw Russian lyrics make the final product even heavier than its Western counterparts. Thanks to the internet, you still have the chance to listen to a stunning technical thrash metal record that hasn't lost any of its passion over the past two and a half decades.