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No unmitigated-level disasters present at all - 99%

slayrrr666, June 6th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2012, CD, Independent

The debut offering from Canadian progressive thrashers Alphakill, “Unmitigated Disaster,” is one of the most blistering assaults from the genre in years and could very well be the starting point for a fantastic career for the band.

From the start, it’s quite evident that this is a rather devoted old-school thrash band that has just a hint of technical skill that carries through the music. Fueled by crunchy guitar rhythms and that devastating tone that ring true for any of the Bay Area stalwarts in the 80s heyday, this is more than just a modern band utilizing an old-school sounding production job to sound pleasing but rather a band that’s steadily building a framework with that familiar structure to hang a series of complex and utterly ripping riffs off of. In a nice change of pace, this isn’t technically-complex and challenging material to play simply for the sake of showing off the kind of dexterity they have or simply for the overkill of whipping through spindly riffs for the sake of doing so but rather the riffs are just technically complicated to play through. This is aided by the dexterous drum-patterns and rather stark bass-lines present through the album, but the main focus of the riffing here is that it’s speedy, barn-burner paced songs that are played in a nod to the old-school fore-bearers of the genre that just so happen to have a complexity to them that comes off as a far better assault than expected from such a young band. This extends beyond just the main riffs but also to the showcase solo sections where the music takes on progressive style levels of technicality through the churning, explosive-laden leads that bristle through the raging tempos so there’s an even greater skill-set demonstrated in the music that fully enhances the different technically-complex thrash on display. The fact that the rest of the music fits into the thrashing style quite well, as that ever-present drumming style that fits into the old-school thrash sound is present here and it absolutely kills with a set of raging, killer fills, dynamic blasting patterns and ever-complex technical rolls to make this an absolutely insane ride throughout with rather quick and insane displays of skill wrapped up in the blasts throughout the music. As well, the thumping bass-lines displays a sense of technicality as well but mainly augments and thickens the sound which gives it even more of an old-school feel. Beyond this, there’s the rather fun element which makes the album even more of an old-school effort with the ability to mix in extended intros and interludes to many of the songs which helps that feeling with the strong influences from their past showing up in the riffing patterns and structures throughout that keeps this one all the more retro-sounding before blasting through a barreling masterpiece of thrash.

There’s some rather fun stuff throughout the album that gets displayed here. One of the best elements is the rather formulaic songwriting that crops up here, which in a sense could serve as a flaw since there’s not a whole lot of formula deviation going on but it seems that the majority of the songs go through the blasting and thumping main rhythms only to get a strong gang-backing vocal chorus before launching into the solo sections and then blasting back out for the final half. This is pretty much repeated throughout the album and rarely gets a chance to change much throughout here except in terms of how the riffs are layered or the tempo it goes through, but the fact that the music tends to be so similarly structured could go either way for listeners. Some might like the fact that the album is quite similar and ends up getting into it because all the songs absolutely slay without too much clunkers or filler tracks filling up the track-list, while others might find the repeated formula evident of their newcomer status and serve as a potential area to fix in the future. This is seemingly the main flaw here and really could serve as a positive for the music as well if that’s the way it’s treated at select times. However, that all goes out the window when listening to the sparkling production on this one. The absolutely infectious tone that they play in is such an added bonus that there’s numerous songs that benefit solely from the production job that’s given here as the music strikingly warm and familiar, never losing sight of where it came from but still distinct enough not to sound like a carbon-copy of that style is such a refreshing and entertaining aspect of the album as well. The one part to this that really makes the album even more fun and enjoyable is the absolute inherence of keeping the music as intense and upbeat as possible, never allowing for a true dip in quality from one half to another and just seemingly intent on thrashing away with utter abandon on all the tracks and never giving away the fact that the album is supposed to get weaker as time goes on but rather utilizing the energy present in their attack to fuel the intense and technical tempos throughout here and never dipping in quality either as many of their tracks on the last half are exactly the same as the first half, which is where this scores so well in keeping this a coherent, consistent effort.

As mentioned, there’s not a whole lot to differentiate the tracks on here as it all tends to bleed together so well. Intro ‘Thrash Eternal’ is precisely what you’re going to get here, with thrashing energy utilizing frantic rhythms and technically-complex patterns to deliver a blistering barnburner of a track to start things off with. ‘Let Me Die’ is remarkably similar if not going as overboard on the soloing that lengthened the previous track but still delivering on the same elements that make that one a blistering rager, a tactic repeated in ‘Corrupted Masses’ to a tee. The title track brings in more progressive elements with its lengthy solo sections and frantic patterns off-set with one of the better old-school intros on the album, making this one of the better efforts on a truly stand-out effort. ‘The Threat From Within’ is a true technical thrasher with plenty of complex riff-work and pounding drumming, and that carries forth into the tracks on the second half with both ‘Rebellion’ and ‘Becoming the Alpha’ utilizing extensive thrashing sections fueled by complicated arrangements and ferocious energy throughout with nary a let-up in terms of speed or intensity. The extended intro again pops up in ‘The Age of Debt Slaves’ to serve as a true blistering blast of technical thrash with complex rhythms and some of the most intense drumming on the album as a whole, making this one more stand-out effort as well. The one time it allows a drop in tempo, ‘Skullcrushery’ whips up some utterly frenetic melodies and truly groovy rhythms within their furious run-through that allows for plenty of complex rhythms and even more dynamic patterns to emerge, sending this off on a great ride with a tight, ferocious track on an album full of such material.

While this may not serve everyone’s tastes for the genre, with their formulaic approach to the material tending to be the biggest factor against the band here, the fact that this is such a dynamic and engaging record for a band this new is an astonishing mark and really generates a lot of positive marks. It’s aggressive and intense when it needs to be, drops in some melodic content at the appropriate times to augment the aggressive side and really shows their influences in full effect without seemingly being a carbon-copy of such forces to start with, and in the end this serves as a serious blast in the genre and could very well be the launching point for their ascension in the future. This is a band that needs to be watched closely.

Unmitigated thrash! - 85%

mjollnir, June 3rd, 2014

Canadians Alphakill is an interesting band. They seem to draw influences from all over the classic thrash genre. While some would say that this band is Testament/Metallica worship, there is much more to this band than just a worship band. Yeah, the vocalist/guitarist Justin Stear can sound like classic era James Hetfield or even Chuck Billy. He even has a Sanctuary era Warrell Dane sound to his voice, at times. All this depends on the song he is singing. What makes this band stand out from the aforementioned bands is their songwriting. The sound of the songs themselves can stand alone and not be considered worship songs. Their first full length, Unmitigated Disaster is anything but.

What this band does is let the riffs speak for themselves. They play classic Bay Area thrash riffs and melodies and while there is that Hetfield tone to the vocalists voice, their riffing and song structure is nothing like Metallica. I'd say the comparison is most likely on the opener, "Thrash Eternal." The riffing is more along the lines of early Exodus. The solos are amazing and sound like neither band. They have flash and style with loads of technique.What makes them stand out is that they go off in a more technical direction than just your average thrash riffs. There's also a good mixture of melody on this album. So to sell the band off as just some Big 4 worship band would be very misleading. Instead of taking them at face value, we need to see what's under the surface. Take a song like "Corrupted Masses" that has some intricate riffing structures that are not your typical thrash riffs but hint at a more progressive or technical direction.Once again the solos are the star here as they are so much more than Kirk Hammet pentatonic scales. Instead they are more technical and melodic at the same time.

The title track sees this band being bold enough to go into a more experimental and epic direction. Here the band reminds me of Wrathchild America in their execution. As a matter of fact, when I was trying to pin down an actual "sound" this band had, they came to mind over and over again. But, once again, they are so much more than that. This song is actually a beast of a song with intricate riffing and rhythms. This is what I meant by digging beneath the surface of this band. They give a nod to their influences but they expand on their sound to make sure they have their own identity. Of course, you just want to thrash the fuck out they have songs like "Threat From Within" that will just kick your ass, straight up. No frills, no flash, just in your face thrash riffs and monstrous solos that seem to just keep going and going...and anyone who has seen any of my reviews knows that a killer guitar solo carries much weight with me. No matter what direction they decide to take a song, it seems to just work.

Of course no thrash band would be complete without either the socially conscience lyrics or the lyrics dealing with thrash, and this band has no shortage of both. As a matter of fact, most of the lyrics on this album say something of societies ills. When you have song titles such as "Rebellion" and "The Age of Debt Slaves" you can see where they are coming from. The remainder are about thrashing your ass off. But the recurring theme with all of the songs is not in the lyrics but in the execution of the music. They pay homage to their influences but not at the risk of being unoriginal. All this, along with stellar production by guitarist Jon Warren and mastering by none other than the legendary Andy LaRocque, makes this a band that takes classic thrash to the next level.

This is a relatively new band, having formed in 2010 and this being their first full length, I am highly anticipating their follow up. I'm curious to see what comes next for this talented Canadian quartet. This is a killer debut and they set the bar kinda high so we'll have to see how they top this. All I can say is that this is essential thrash metal and this is an indicator of what thrash will be in the new millennium, count me in!!

Special thanks to Jon Warren for the digital promo.


http://elitistmetalhead.blogspot.com/

Unmitigated Thrashing Skullcrushery. - 90%

hells_unicorn, December 5th, 2012

Thrash metal has come to be many things to many different people. If early Voivod or Vektor be one's poison, then a world of bizarre Sci-fi phenomena is the ultimate conclusion, while the blackened corridors of early Bathory and Slayer will take one down the creepy world of the occult. However, it is arguable that the purest and roots-based mode of thrash is one that veers closer to its punk roots where real life events, politics and personal struggles tend to be the preferred subject of discussion, hence the later coined "green" strain of the sub-genre. The only catch to taking this route is the common accusation that this approach tended to accompany a drier, less extravagant musical approach as typified in the early 90s thrash at half-speed sound of "Impact Is Imminent" and 'The American Way". But when social critique can be merged with a violent, old school thrash style presented in a new an interesting way, these are the makings of a new classic.

If there is a place where presenting an aggressive style in a new and intricate way, Canada would seem to be the likely place given its recent history of successful experiments in progressive music. However, most historic examples of merging progressive methods with thrash in Canada have been extremely hit or miss, taking Annihilator as the most prominent example. But by a rather interesting turn of events, a new wind has begun to blow, and its name is Alphakill. Sporting a name that would indicate a nasty, hard-hitting approach not all that far removed from a lot of the newer red thrash outfits, they've taken an approach that can be best described as a very happy medium between the punchy, straightforward approach of early Bay Area thrash with a less conventional approach to songwriting than even the typically adventurous later adherents to said sound in the later 80s like Death Angel and Heathen. All the best elements of Metallica, Exodus, Testament and several others have been distilled into a potent yet multifaceted wrecking machine dubbed "Unmitigated Disaster".

At first impression, this album comes off like orthodox early Metallica worship with maybe a hint of early Exodus, in no small part because of the constant barrage of riffs and fast paced drumming, not to mention a vocalist that sounds remarkably similar to a young James Hetfield meets a more nimble Chuck Billy. Fast paced excursions into the typical exploits of neck-breaking thrashing and crowd pleasing such as "Thrash Eternal" and "Becoming The Alpha" are steeped in lyrical cliche right out of the "Kill Em' All" and "Bonded By Blood", and the songs do tend to follow a similar riff template, though the amount of total musical content is a bit larger and more aggressive. But as things progress, a somewhat more contemporary character begins to develop, one that isn't completely oblivious to some changes in the metal scene that occurred during the early 90s and beyond. Indeed, one can't help but immediately identify a casual familiarity between the eerie intro of "The Age Of The Debt Slaves" and some of the spacey elements heard on Death's "Human", though a healthy bit of "Victims Of Deception" and "...And Justice For All" comes along for the ride to bolster the implicit grandiose feel of this 6-minute plus epic.

It's difficult to fully pin down one specific discipline from the mix going on here, though the influences tend to be far more green and red than black or gray. Lyrically, the multifaceted critique of a world plagued with social strife, manipulative politicians and natural disasters only occasionally gives way to the celebratory character of early Metallica and Tankard where simple booze and metal worship were sufficient, though the best word-based content found on here is reserved for "Let Me Die", casting a cold air of reality on the issue of pulling the plug in a manner rivaled only by the eerie music video of Metallica's "One". Similarly, the mix of restrained melody and unfettered chaos that dominates the title song "Unmitigated Disaster" is contrasted quite nicely by the methodical and straightforward speeder "Rebellion", both walking a delicate line between hitting the right hooks and avoiding being too conventional, yet the former hinting at the zenith of stylistic adventure and expansion of the early 90s while the latter sounds more along the lines of a plainer, mid-80s assault in the mold of "Bonded By Blood".

This band definitely chose an appropriate name because their debut album kills it from pretty much every possible angle. It manages to bridge the gap between the needed conservatism that goes with maintaining a pure thrashing sound, yet isn't satisfied to simply relive the mid 80s through the eyes of one singular scene or band. It's the sort of album that keeps finding new ways to surprise the listener even after receiving regular play for several weeks. Definitely keep an eye on Alphakill as they prepare to launch their beta opus.

Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on December 15, 2012.

"Alpha-Kill-'Em-All!" - 85%

ByZiltoidsCommand, August 26th, 2012

Well shit, if you had told me Winnipeg would be granted a band embracing the groovier, ultra-technical nuances of thrash à la the greatest of the bay area such as Alphakill during the retro thrash explosion of 2007 and onward, I probably would have laughed it off pretty hard. Not that there's much wrong with that ethic, but it's been 5 years since Municipal Waste and co. gained serious metal notoriety and there's only so many 1 – 2 minute spastic tirades on beer, pizza and posers this reviewer can take. The point here being, Alphakill's not only a fine new thrash band coming into their own, but a much, much needed breath of putrid air for the whole scene.

The album kicks off with one of its' finest full-frontal aural assaults – Thrash Eternal. The first track sports some furious riff work, an unrelenting cannon of a bass drum, some surprisingly soaring, yet rowdy vocals throughout and culminating in a piercing lead break near the end that sounds like it would've been right at home on “Ashes In Your Mouth.” Then barely giving you room to breath, Let Me Die roars right in with a growling, rolling bass and drum intro before launching into one of the album's finest groovier riffs, bringing to mind the best of latter day Overkill or even Symphony X's more pounding material. Don't be taken aback by the stop-start grooves in the verse, Justin snarls out the lyrics with some real venom and conviction, bringing the chorus to an absolute roar. The vocals definitely carry this particular song, and they can and will widen your eyes upon the second chorus (“I don't want more surgereeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeey!”).

I really can't recommend the vocals or the axe-work on this record much higher. Stear and Warren pass around leads and double riffs like a reborn, revitalized Mustaine/Friedman, Peterson/Skolnick, Holt/Atlus, and any other legendary guitar teams you'd care to add to the list. As stated above, Justin's vocals deserve special mention as well. Eschewing the done-to-death Paul Baloff meets Kreator worship of modern thrash vocalists, Stear snarls and wails his way through the album in a far more melodic, yet infinitely more vicious approach reminiscent of the absolute best days of Hetfield, or at times a far more tuneful Randy Rampage with some shockingly strong falsetto shrieks here and there throughout the record, tapping into just enough of the one and only Blitz to leave this discerning thrash fan smiling from ear to ear. Of course, it'd be impossible to complete the review without mention of ex-Evil Survives drummer Derrick Kroll's typically ace performance behind the kit, the double bass assault is, as mentioned, an absolute CANNON in your eardrums, and overall he delivers some spastic, frantic, yet perfectly controlled and precise fills, rolls and rhythms all around. Bassist Jesse unfortunately, isn't exactly playing at the front and center of things, but this is a thrash album we're talking about and not everyone can be Sadus. That being said, he's still much more audible than you'd expect and even steps out with a few intros and fills here and there (Becoming the Alpha's got some neat stuff right below the surface!), giving Stear and Warren a rock solid foundation and locking things down quite well.

Overall, this is one hell of a sprint out of the starting gate for Winnipeg's latest thrash heroes bringing together an absolutely pristine production (done by none other than King Diamond's Andy LaRoque!!!), shredding, skull-crushing (pun intended) riffs and lead work, no-holds-barred drumming and some of the best thrash vocals I've heard in ages to inflict some much-needed good, friendly violent fun on the great white north's metal-hungry masses. The only real gripes holding this back from a perfect score are mostly personal preferences like taking a little more emphasis on strong chorus hooks like Let Me Die and Threat From Within into every song and a few more pounding mid-tempos along the lines of the title track and Age of the Debt Slaves could help the pacing of this album a tad and as always, turn up the bass (though once again, it's a thrash album). But all in all, Unmitigated Disaster is just that, and is an absolute killer of an album.

Here's to the Alphakill wrecking crew, I for one can't wait to see just how they blow this one out of the water with their next great release!