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Sounds That Bring Hope on the Canvas of Tomorrow - 100%

bayern, April 6th, 2017

When I got this album, I thought I was getting some kind of a follow-up to the Arizona power/thrash metal band of the same name whose older efforts I had and liked. There was no Internet at the time, and no one knew what he/she was getting at times; all was based on the word of the folks you were getting it from, very often without a tracklist or any other additional piece of information. So you can imagine my surprise when I heard the first few notes… this was quite a transformation witnessed here, but I guess anything was possible after The Black Album, “Force of Habit”, and “Renewal”...

So I was listening to this effort nodding in approval thoroughly appreciating this new direction taken by the band, also admiring their ability to outgrow their retro metal roots for something much trendier, something that sounded like nothing they had meddled with in the past. Good, really good stuff… It was quite a few months later when a guy I knew asked me for the Arizona dream… sorry, band works, and I also handed him the album reviewed here. The man brought back the cassettes a week later saying “Bro, these guys here are another Aftermath, from Chicago. Nothing to do with the others…”. Aha.

I have to admit that I had the feeling I was listening to another outfit, but I had no idea there were other Aftermaths from the US; I mean, who else would have thought of using that moniker, for crying out loud! Anyway, I did my homework now that I knew what I was looking for although it took me quite a while to track down the band’s early demos. It turned out that they were playing some pretty rough, primal thrash bordering on proto-death at the beginning, but by the “Words That Echo Fear” demo in 1989 more original strokes had started sneaking into the rigorous uncompromising approach promising more interesting things to come. The “Roadrunner Demo” from 1990 contained four tracks from the album here carving the path the guys had chosen to explore, the one of technical/progressive thrash metal glory.

This opus comes as a marvellous compilation of several masterpieces released a bit earlier: Anacrusis’ “Screams & Whispers” and Coroner’s last two. In other words, the guys have produced an encyclopaedia of the post-classic progressive thrash saga poured in over an hour. “Words That Echo Fear” leaves no stone unturned with its rampant rhythm-section the guys shredding with jumpy choppy riffs, the thrashing carnival stopping for a breath-taking balladic interlude. Worth of note are the sinister mean, semi-declamatory vocals very reminiscent of Ron Royce (Coroner) which become a bit more lyrical on the title-track, an amorphous technicaller which riff-patterns become even more hectic and jumpier also enriched with a supreme galloping passage thrown mid-way. “Being” is a surreal masterpiece of weird twisted riffs bouncing in and out of existence before a more dramatic section puts an end to their chaotic interplay the latter recalling a motif from Coroner’s “Semtex Revolution” from “Mental Vortex”; more balladic brilliance served in the middle under the dance of sprightly virtuoso leads. “Experience” would be quite “an experience”, an 8.5-min progressive saga that “flirts” with the ballad initially its calm “waters” intercepted by brash jarring rhythms which adhere to more classic overtones recalling “Mental Vortex” again, the complex drama reaching fever-pitch towards the middle until the next in line quiet lead-driven passage pacifies the tense environment.

“Afraid of Time” is a more immediate jumper the band weaving intricate, labyrinthine mosaics the serpentine riff-formulas knowing a few more melodic respites along the way, the guys leaving their hearts and souls on the fabulous Shrapnel-like lead section. “Reflecting Pictures” is a heavy steam-rolling thrasher with busy, fairly technical riffage which jumps up and down to a seriously dizzying effect the “madness” aggravated by the heavily synthesized tone that the vocals take; great lyrical progressivisms bring enormous relief from the “insane” picture alongside some of the most stunning technical dashes of the 90’s, a superb “technical vs. melody” symbiosis which later acts like Theory in Practice and Psycroptic (“The Sceptre of the Ancients”, above all) made their own by building their entire repertoire on it. “Change of Mood” is indeed “a change of mood” towards a more aggressive way of execution the band bracing themselves for a contrasting “marriage” between atmosphere and hard sharp thrashing akin to Anacrusis’ mentioned magnum opus with more lead-driven balladisms befalling the enchanted listener, the calm before the storm the latter coming in the form of vitriolic spastic rhythms, and a sudden galloping application towards the end. “The Act of Unspoken Wisdom” starts with a most tantalizing melodic introduction which is expressed through minimalistic lead insertions which emerge above ground as stylish riffs, this encompassing musical panorama assisted by effective declamatory tirades. “Whisper of a Dream” tries to justify its “dreamy” title with a romantic balladic inauguration, but expect more technical exuberance of the creepy minimalistic variety, a very effective gimmick also bringing a lot of atmosphere into the eventful, complex tapestry; watch out for the abrupt fast-paced “skirmish” ala Anacrusis’ “Division” from “Screams & Whipsers” where technical and melodic variations form a tight knot. “Proud Reflex” is the last technical/progressive masterpiece the band shooting all the competition around with a sizzling array of ultimately stylish riffs which remorseless stride is nowhere broken reminding of Nasty Savage’s “Penetration Point” as well, a relaxing balladic motif putting everyone to sleep… not so fast as the guys have prepared one more perplexing pile of mind-scratching dashes, the “rude awakening” at the end of this absolute no-brainer.

1994 was the year when both the German and the Dutch scenes were getting ready for retirement after several very strong years giving the classic metal lovers plenty of moments to enjoy. Just when one thought that there couldn’t be anything better than Skeptic Sense’s “Presence of Mind”, or Aeons End’s “Spiral Seas”, or Aleister’s “Tribal tech” that year, comes this opus to mess up the fans’ top ten lists cause its place is nowhere but on the very top. The US wasn’t taking a very active part on the thrash metal front in the early/mid-90’s, being much more concerned with keeping death metal afloat, and spreading the aggro/groovy/alternative word far’n wide. Well, these unknowns had made up for their homeland scene's disregard of the good old thrash; and not only, but they had produced one of the most shining examples of how the old and the modern school could “partner” to bring the genre back to its former glories. It’s probably the finest symbiosis ever created between the two trends in the annals of thrash edging out Aleister’s “Tribal Tech” due to its more old school feel, and Equinox’s “Labyrinth” due to its more serious, less psychedelic approach to the genre.

The “eyes of tomorrow” stared into the future for one more spell two years later, the 1996 demo which contained four compositions that pretty much continued the tendency towards more futuristic ways of execution, polishing the several hard thrashing edges from the full-length, and presenting them in a more refined, less intense form. This informal swansong had a very dreamy, spacey feeling about it this time coming even close to the “Grin” sterile aesthetics, but with a very interesting anti-aggressive aura that screamed for elaboration. The Italians Jester Beats produced something equally as mesmerizing and ephemeral on the “Infinite Jest” EP (2012), but this captivating delivery largely remained untapped…

Until the band’s reformation in the new millennium, of course; which is a fact, and immediately “bore” several compilations, mostly of an early demo material. The “eyes of tomorrow” have been brought into the present, they predicted correctly the second ascension of our favourite thrash, and now the world is awaiting their contribution to it with trepidation. Make sure you keep the top of your top ten lists vacant… they can get seriously messed up again in the aftermath.

Steel balls and meaningful technicality - 98%

sonoflilith, May 2nd, 2016
Written based on this version: 2015, 2CD, Shadow Kingdom Records (Limited Edition, Remastered)

Tech/prog thrash metal from 1990. Written between 1988-1990, recorded in 1990, released 4 years later in 1994 due to record company bankruptcy. Chicago band.

Fucking relentless grooving riffs right off the bat. And the vocalist Charlie Tsiolis sounds like Ron Broder of Coroner. Hell yes! Okay, admittedly, the initial impression Aftermath's album made on me was superb to say the least. And after listening to the album practically non-stop for a whole few months I can safely say this will be one of my favourite albums ever.

Them coming first as sounding like Coroner is not to say that Aftermath has no sound of their own. They also come from the same timeline as Coroner, the late 80's, so I speculate it's just a case of sharing the same kind of influences. They are somehow a little bit more badass than Coroner and I really dig the vocalist's style that has angry rant-like qualities sometimes. Love the lyrics too. The singer has a unique way of kinda going out of time here and there but it fits the mood of the lyrics so well and gives the music vast amounts of chaos and aggression, so it doesn't matter to me if it's on purpose or not. Check out the title track for example to hear his almost desperate ranting verses and the extremely catchy chorus which has a surprisingly complex vocal rhythm that may initially sound confusing but the riff and the bass hitting the chords are so metal it's impossible to resist moshing. The singer pulls off a pretty varied effort considering the whole album, sounding emotional and even haunting on other tracks, like the awesome ”Proud Reflex”.

The band is organically tight and I love how the album sounds production wise. Especially the drums sound excellent. I think the drums bring this album to a whole new level of technicality because the player, Ray Schmidt, basically avoids cliches like the classic thrash beat and clearly has more influences than Overkill and Kill 'Em All.

The bass is luckily very audible because the player complements the riffs with just the right mixture of simply rounding up headbanging moments and adding more unique lines that snake around the guitars. There are quite a few moments of the bass going full on solo and it's great because the player has the confidence and the skill to pull it off, like the latter part of ”Being” for example. The guitars are natural in a way that you can actually hear there are two different players performing on each side. My only, and minimal, gripe is that the soloing could have maybe used a bit more composing to make the leads catchier.

The songs are entertaining in a way only the best tech-thrash bands get. The longer tunes sound epic and not just long for the sake of being long, like for example the atmospheric ”Change Of Mood” or the excellent ”Experience” with it's aggravated, ranting lyrics about corrupt leaders and the naive people following them. ”Change Of Mood” has a one of a kind feel, it's amazing how they found the perfect lyrical content to fit the melancholy riffs. And for a lengthy song it grabs you right from the first second because the lyrics describe a depressed mind so well. What I really like is that Aftermath goes in guns blazing omitting prog cliches like unnecessary keyboard intros altogether. Well, the 10th track, an instrumental jam piece called ”Snuff” is pretty trivial, but it is fortunately tagged at the end of the album and I guess the controlled guitar feedback makes it sound pretty sinister.

I just don't get bored with this album and it pours energy to my day. Eyes Of Tomorrow has a unique atmosphere and steel balls with just the right amount of almost punk-like aggression mixed with meaningful technicality.

(Sidenote: the 2015 reissue by Shadow Kingdom records has bonus tracks from a 1988 demo and a 1996 demo but I'm only reviewing the actual record that spans the first 10 tracks.)

Progressive Thrash. - 78%

foshuggah, July 23rd, 2003

"Eyes of Tomorrow" is one of those overlooked albums. A sad fact, considering these guys were in the same vein as Anacrusis, Mekong Delta and Atheist, to name a few.

This is one of those albums that's hard to get into, but once you assimilate the songs, it's just brilliant and completely stands out in the crowd.

Technical and progressive, this album showcases some pretty new ideas and influences with songs like the aptly-titled "Experience". There is a thrash influence there, with lots of weird melodic/harmonic ideas and odd time signatures. "Change of Mood" is another piece where you can find some jazz concepts mixed in. The top musicianship certainly helps the songs to grow and develop, even though they are filled with many aspects that are/were not present in thrash metal or heavy metal in general.

But I can't get into the vocals yet. There is an annoying effect they use on this album that just gets on my nerves after a couple songs. This is really sad, 'cause I think the vocal lines are pretty good.

Anyway, if you are looking for some new (old) thrash with progressive influences, Aftermath is the way to go.