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Fluidity, Fusion and Genuinely Moving Fretwork - 95%

bayern, May 5th, 2017

Australian thrash is way more than a speculative conjecture although the majority of the fanbase are solely familiar with the works of Mortal Sin and Hobbs’ Angel of Death. Dark Order, Nothing Sacred, Bezerker, Rampage, Tyrus, Addictive, Black Reign, Redeemer… the late-80’s/early-90’s were booming with upstarts willing to find a place under the metal sun. Alarum were one of the more intelligent practitioners with their eyes on the serious, progressive side of the genre. They easily stuck out of the crowd with the “Another World” demo (1994), three tracks of complex technical/progressive thrash/death the latter blend finding a fuller, marginally more thrash-fixated, form on the following “Blueprint” two years later.

The compositions from the last demo were used as the backbone for the album reviewed here, an admirable achievement in the annals of diverse, fusion-esque progressive thrash. Mentioning fusion, this gimmick was tested for the first time on a thrash metal template here as the adventurous Aussies had no second thoughts about where their passion lied. Its application will invariably evoke memories of the works of Cynic, Atheist and Pestilence although this is not exactly the direction in which “Realization” will swing you, a spastic thrashterpiece providing a wide array of time and tempo shifts, with quiet balladic sections also reminiscent of the early Believer exploits. “Internal” is a turn towards more conventional death/thrash with echoes of Death’s “Spiritual Healing”, suiting better the semi-shouty deathy vocals which become semi-whispered on the breath-taking tender interlude. “It Passes Away” brutalizes the environment with urgent death metal dramatism at the beginning, but expect stylish technical thrashing later accompanied by nice cleaner vocals and less accessible jazzy labyrinths of creepy serpentine rhythms. “Blueprint” is exquisite progressive thrash, an encyclopaedia of twisting, tightly woven riff-formulas that refuse to stand still, but are constantly shifting creating an entire universe of alluring complexity which even serves something for the headbangers amongst the virtuous lead sections and the jazzy, unnerving rhythmic patterns.

“Could This Be Real?” beggars belief indeed with its pacifying balladic intro, and when the cool clean vocals hit one may start thinking about the fields of pure progressive where acts like Pagan’s Mind and Evergrey reside; not for long, though, as the bigger dynamics later ensures the thrash metal fans’ entertainment who may have to adjust to the prolonged fusion-esque “distractions” and the nervy, fluctuating riff “skirmishes”. “Severed” “severs” all the ties with its predecessor by embarking on a more linear journey through the intense thrash/death metal “jungle” with several nice melodic escapades offered alongside vigorous early Death-esque bash. “Taking Place” “takes place” within the technical thrash realm citing its leaders Coroner as prime influence the atmospheric progressive build-ups vintage “No More Color”, the latter overseeing the proceedings which also comprise a lyrical balladic deviation. The saga is finished with “Silence” which provides anything but with energetic guitars raging onward with a more overt death metal flavour, the stride intercepted by intriguing technical thrashing as both sides intertwine, racing each other wrapped in gorgeous melodic leads, all the way to the serene ambient finale.

Classic thrash couldn’t have become more technical and interesting in the late-90’s although the scene welcomed talented outfits like the Danes Unleashed Power, and the Germans Mind-Ashes, Subcutane and Sore Plexus. However, the contribution from Down Under can’t be underestimated, and not because it also brought some forgotten deathy flair with it. The old school was yawning as an indication of waking up, stirring the dormant spirits in all corners of the world, and Alarum were only too aware of how they should respond to the spawning campaign. The latter needed all the jazz and the fusion that could be summoned as long as it was embedded into the rigid retro metal template. Mission accomplished for the Aussies who seemed well equipped to take a leading position at the forefront of the movement in a both thrash and death metal context…

quite a responsibility, if you ask me, which our friends simply didn’t feel like engaging with. A lengthy 6-year hiatus followed, spiced with the casual demo/promo, then a sophomore came out eventually, “Eventuality”, seeing the band embracing the purer progressive metal idea, abandoning the more aggressive thrash/deathy approach. In this train of thought one has to give it to them for making Cynic’s “Traced in Air” whole four years earlier as the Americans’ reunion opus followed a very similar trajectory. Spacey, trippy, psychedelic, not to mention more copiously jazzy and fusion-esque, this effort didn’t quite keep their fanbase perennially delighted.

The next time off for retrospection increased to seven years, but it was spent wisely as the guys returned with “Natural Causes”, a smattering display of classic thrash genius fused with all the staple jazz/fusion tools of the trade, a technical/progressive amalgam that put Australian thrash back on the map. Mission accomplished again… how many more missions the band would be able to carry out remains to be seen as the guys have branched out into a psychedelic, cosmic progressive metal territory with their new project The Levitation Hex, in team with the Alchemist frontman Adam Agius. Although the style is a logical continuation of the ever-expanding, larger-than-life landscapes of the now extinct Alchemists, the Alarum guys fit very well into another less ordinary venture, a testimony for their prodigious ability in entertaining the masses with leaps and bounds of constantly surprising musical excursions.

Alarum - Fluid Motion - 60%

ConorFynes, March 20th, 2012

As is the case for many progressive death metal acts, Alarum began by playing a more straightforward brand of metal. With the debut 'Fluid Motion', this Australian jazz metal band performs a striking mix of thrash energy and death heaviness. The degree of complexity that would come with later work is not yet here, but as it stands, 'Fluid Motion' is a competent thrash-death crossover record.

Alarum sound readily influenced by the pioneers Death, in the sense that Death made their first strides by combining death metal and thrash together. For anyone mildly familiar with either genre, it's granted that 'Fluid Motion' will not appeal to many outside the metal community. This is largely due to the style, but also due to the impression that nothing in 'Fluid Motion' particularly stands out. Save for a slight flirtation with progressive jazz elements, Alarum's debut passes me as being competent, but little more, at least at this stage. Instrumentally, Alarum typically switches between straightforward thrash rhythms and contrasts it with more technically admirable passages, sometimes reminiscent of death metal, and other times sounding like they could be paying tribute to prog-era Voivod. The song 'Could This Be Real?' provides a bit of a refreshment, giving the listener a jazzy angle. There is a good variety in the vocals as well, with clean singing, Schuldiner-esque growls, and a marriage between the two, at times. Where 'Fluid Motion' begins to buckle is that none of these numerous elements ever excel. The clean vocals seem to run flat, the growls lack distinction, and as technically skilled as the musicianship is, there's nothing here that blows the competition out of the water.

In short, 'Fluid Motion' is a fairly ambitious, and ultimately decent output from a band who would go on to become one of the leading forces of jazz metal. It lacks the flow and tact of an excellent album, but there's nothing bad about this one at all.

Progressive thrash/jazz on an advanced level - 83%

davkov85, October 9th, 2004

Though Australia is mostly known for its ultrabrutal death/grind bands, this is a progressive thrash metal band; imagine that Voivod plays in the veins of Cynic, and you get Alarum.
The album is technical and full of tempo and rhytm changes, however very low-key and not as complex as Cynic. Anyway: this is the, thrash metal version of Cynic! The singer’s voice is somewhere between shouting and growlong, not very harsh, and those who found the “transformer voice” on Focus annoying, would accept this in my opinion.
Beside metal, there are some jazz/fusion parts on this album. However I don’t like jazz, this amount is nice and fits the album quite well. The musicians are technically perfect: the drums are and varying and interesting, the guitar work is cool too, and (not so surprising in this style) I find the bass themes also impressing.
The only weak point of this album is the songwriting. I don’t think that it would be so commerce if they took some catchy or easier memorable parts in the tracks, then they would be cool songs - this way it’s only a pile of technical riffs. Also nice, very enjoyable, but not a very deep or classic album. It lacks originality, however this is not problem to me.
All in all, those who like progressive thrash and death metal won’t disappoint with this!