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Cracking the skull of the moon. - 83%

hells_unicorn, April 11th, 2018
Written based on this version: 1988, 12" vinyl, Brokin'

Amid the tidal wave of thrash metal acts that began popping up throughout the continental United States by 1988, things seemed to get a bit lop-sided when comparing the success of bands hailing from the west coast versus the other hotbed of thrash in and around the Big Apple, which was having the likes of Illinois and Texas nipping on its heels in terms of substantial thrash LP output. Nevertheless, the big names of Overkill, Nuclear Assault and Anthrax were not alone in their craft in the cold northeast, though much of their compatriots like Carnivore, M.O.D., Cro-Mags, Crumbsuckers and Leeway were definitely bent in more of a hardcore/crossover direction. Still, a handful of lesser known and sadly short-lived outfits like Toxic, I.N.C. and E-X-E (formerly Executioner) stuck far closer to the metallic side of the coin and have since achieved varying degrees of cult status that has since seen all three of said acts reform and begin putting out new material. A recent addition to the comeback kid club is a far more obscure act out of NYC dubbed Aragon that fielded a very short yet highly effective display of hyper-paced thrashing that should have made them a household name.

Billed as a four-piece outfit with only one guitarist (a distinction reserved to the 80s incarnation of Overkill), this is a band that understands the necessary talent needed to make said arrangement work. The constant battery of the drums is executed with militaristic precision, opting for a generally fast and busy approach that leans a bit towards the punk-infused approach of Nuclear Assault and some of the more hardcore leaning New York outfits of the day, though employing a slightly greater degree of machine gun double bass work that is definitely up Charlie Benante's alley. The bass work is notably present in the mix and is about as smooth and fluid as they come, inter-playing with the guitars in a manner somewhat reminiscent of Cliff Burton but minus the distortion and wah-pedal noise. The vocal work of Rob Anderson is generally high pitched and poised, almost like a slightly shriller answer to Joey Belladonna with a tad bit of Mark Osegueda on the side. But the real prowess of this outfit is guitarist Mike Pope, who lays down speed infused madness and neck-crushing riff work at a pace reserved for the likes of Wehrmacht and Cryptic Slaughter, but with a wild soloing approach reminiscent of Slayer circa Show No Mercy.

From start to finish, Aragon can be best described as a sub-23 minute explosion of youthful thrashing exuberance that manages to throw a heap of ideas into a package that approaches EP territory. Probably the most viciously fast thrasher of the bunch is "Blood Thirsty", which rockets forth and refuses to take its foot off the accelerator, hitting a lot of similar points to Tankard's Zombie Attack with about twice the bass activity a heavier amount of lead guitar noise. This isn't to say that the punchy speeder and opener "Fallout" and the riff happy cruiser "Simply Deranged" are any slouches in the speed department, the latter being preceded by a surprisingly serene and proficient classical guitar interlude in "Straight Jacket" that displays a level of versatility not often heard in more speed metal-oriented thrash efforts. Things take a bit off an odd stylistic left-turn with the occasionally thrashing but largely mid-paced rendition of "(I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone" by The Monkees, a probable nod to the precedent Megadeth set with their Nancy Sinatra cover back in 1985. Ironically enough, the closing songs seem to have a bit more of an earlier, almost NWOBHM-tinged flavor to them comparable to Kill 'Em All, as if the band had ordered the songs on this album in a reverse chronological way relative to when they were written.

It's a testament to the wide popularity and quick saturation of the original thrash metal scene that this band didn't get more buzz in the New York scene, because this album definitely displays the potential for them to go head to head with and even surpass some of the slightly more prolific second tier bands to hit the scene outside of the west coast. Though they would call it quits soon after this album was recorded and spend the better part of three decades away from the music scene, a lasting impression was left by Aragon for those who had heard this album or would hear it in the coming years, as a strong enough buzz has developed over the past few years for them to reform and float the very real possibility of more material. Praises should be given to the internet for not only opening up a wider array of metal musicians to connect with their audience in a near zero-scarcity environment, but also in resurrecting a number of bands for a second go-around. The naysayers are free to drone on about how the thrash revival has been dead for years, the rest of us can tune them out and bang our heads to the classics of both yesterday and today, and Aragon may yet prove to have a classic of tomorrow waiting in the wings, if this underground monster of an album is any indication.