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Italy's Finest, Bonus Part: Rebirth - 80%

TheBurningOfSodom, August 9th, 2018

Bulldozer were truly a unique band, not only in the Italian scene, but in the whole world. Try to write down who albums like IX and Neurodeliri sound alike to, and you'll likely give up the task after pointing out a couple dozen of names. They sounded like no one else, and left the thrash metal scene just before things were starting to go downhill, refusing to stain their refined musical style and giving an end to one of the most consistent discographies a thrash metal band could claim. Nevertheless, with the advent of Internet, the world started to discover old and nearly forgotten bands, whose music aged like fine wine, and Bulldozer was no stranger to this. Soon, folks from all over the world found out that even the land of traditional, popular songs once had a respectable number of distinctive extreme metal bands hidden beneath the surface. The names of Bulldozer, Schizo, Necrodeath suddenly became more meaningful to metalheads. This can explain the enthusiast reaction AC Wild faced when, in 2007, he joined Lab├┐rinth on stage in Japan and played some songs of his main band.

After having touched first hand how their legacy still lived in fans all around the world, AC Wild and Andy Panigada accepted the challenge and resurrected Bulldozer in 2008; and despite not having been particularly busy in the recording venue in the last ten years - not as much as they did live, at least - they didn't forget to deliver us another lesson in violence (quoting Exodus) with their 5th full-length Unexpected Fate, 21 years after the morose masterwork that was Neurodeliri. With this recording, they dropped their trademark bastardization of thrash and black metal, opting for a more classic thrash metal approach, another stylistic change after their weird techno period in the '90s. A phase which, mind you, shouldn't really stain the band's reputation as you may think, since AC Wild himself admitted it was only a provocation, an ironic 'experiment' about those particular times which reached far unimaginable success and even influenced bands like Prodigy, according to him. It was simply the logical outcome of their provocative nature, brought to exasperation, and if it sounded ugly, it was meant to be like that. Maybe we should rather start to question the mental health of those who liked it and brought Bulldozer in tour in order to make them play that stuff on live shows... but it's not the right time, and neither the right place, to do it. Onwards to Unexpected Fate.

The intro catapults us in the typical atmosphere of a Bulldozer album, before Manu's hyper-speed drumming attacks you with surgical blast-beats and shows the new face of the band. Given his experience with the revival thrash band Death Mechanism, the new drummer's style is clearly the main difference between this and the previous full-lengths. The title-track ends and we have already witnessed Bulldozer's most violent song to date (sorry for you, middle songs of IX), yet the album goes on without losing too much steam and pace throughout the 9 'full' tracks. That's probably why, after two other beasts titled 'Aces of Blasphemy' and 'Salvation for Sale', few surprises await us in the immediate future, and the middle of the album slightly dips in quality. 'Use Your Brain''s sporadic appearances of a clean guitar mark a little throwback to Neurodeliri in terms of atmosphere, if nothing else, since the keyboards are sparse and low in the mix (i.e. the intro of 'Bastards'). 'Micro VIP' brings finally some tempo changes, but like in the previous songs the chorus could be shorter and even more effective. Probably the most interesting feature of these two last songs is that we can finally see AC Wild inveighing against technology in the lyrics, and still he doesn't disappoint.

'The Counter-Crusade' is the real deal here, however. The song already smells of the band's last two albums by its very beginning riff, the chorus is much in the vein of their swansong Neurodeliri, but the guest appearances are also more than remarkable thanks to Kiko Loureiro's acrobatic soloing and Billy Sheehan's unexpected (no pun intended) bass solo; and despite the fact it's placed in a break after the first chorus, very likely to interrupt the rapid flow of the song, it doesn't even feel forced, and that's saying much. The short, atmospheric instrumental 'The Prediction' builds up a climax into another classic of the band, the longer, solemn closer track. 'In the Name' begins with the right alternation of mid-tempo verses and anthemic choruses, before the solo by a solid Jennifer Batten leads into the furious second half, again like 'Willful Death' from their last album, and it's nearly every bit as good as that, though certainly not as emotional. In the 'Die to kill - In the name of the merciful' gang shouts you'll find yourself with a fist up in the air without knowing why, trust me. Don't overlook the innuendos to their songs scattered in the lyrics. This album really picked up itself in the last couple of songs.

The production has always been a delicate subject for Bulldozer albums, and this one makes no exception, with a few aspects which could be polished, for example the snare is modern sounding and a bit too high in the mix, if compared both to the rest of the drumkit and to the other instruments, but actually it's far from being an obstacle for your listening experience and you'll get used to it in a couple of songs, because for the rest it's hands down the best they ever had. The performance of the band is quite good, with AC Wild offering the usual solid work on both vocals (and he still delivers!) and bass (if you can hear it, that's it), but Panigada limiting himself to the riff department, as you may have guessed from the several guest lead guitarists. Still, well done. I would have liked more of his solo work, but I respect his choice, I guess he had his reasons to do this.

All in all, the rating for this album, as unbiased as I might have been, isn't clearly as important as the concept of a Bulldozer comeback at full throttle. It might have seemed difficult to believe at first, but the Italian masters gave us another lesson on how to do it the right way. Chapeau.