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All futures uncertain. - 100%

GrizzlyButts, March 27th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2019, CD, Unspeakable Axe Records

Whether or not you agree that the now aged and corrosive presence of instant human communication will forever be defined by the greatest form of injustice, the age old political conundrum proverbially described in The Republic as Plato posits how to reverse ingrained thought among the atrociously subverted masses; That a tyrannical puppet could convince the masses that he/she is of just cause in spite of clear crimes against humanity is the inevitable symptom of widespread psychotic denial of the insatiably cruel greed of the ruling class. The powerful are guilty on every count. Their herds are meek or thoughtless enough that you’d be forgiven for wanting to accelerate that darkness would descend upon all fetid population. Your very thoughts and ideas upon injustice, fairness, and compliance are defined by those who’ve stupefied your last several generations with every attempt to squeeze the blood from your very marrow. With the pretense of civility observed man’s greatest defiance against uncontrollable tyranny was possible in the past through a massive wave of critical thought that came from technology enabling the impoverished out of their kennels. Today there is no such luxury among fools. Your revolution will be blocked, deleted, monitored, defaced, and muted out of the minds of the satellite-noise addicted masses even as the fiber optic noose around their necks coil like snakes. The misconception that ‘good will among men’ exists within an opportunistic system drives all opposing forces in a feigned democracy; The impoverished and victimized will increase and suffer in such pools of rage for only so long. If there is no civil, bloodless way to ensure the erasure of disinformation and malignant politicians in the future, self-directed education is the only card left for the poor. Mankind will suffer for our own idiocy regardless of any violent will they possess.

You might not realize that you’ve become some kind of idiotic deranged fool completely wasted, high off your fucking rocker, on technology every night while you glower like a Skeksi with devious plans into your glowing phone, but you have. You’re a minion to so many corporate robotic fucks, a follower who wants more followers to follow your bullshit and there are so many of you that each existence can be boiled down to such measly advertising dollars you couldn’t buy a box to live in with it. My war might be with the impending technological doom of mankind paired with environmental collapse and I don’t think Villa Alemana, Chile thrash metal band Critical Defiance are too far off in their similar detestation of injustice and manipulative cruelty. The message of their music is just as important as its immaculate stylistic qualities and to overlook their política would be a disservice to the overall timeless value of Critical Defiance‘s debut full-length ‘Misconception’.

Just as British pop music appropriated rhythm from the United States south so did the San Francisco Bay Area’s youngest trust fund babies ape the working class heavy rock of the United Kingdom’s NWOBHM movement. Bay Area thrash diluted into many streams and in the less capable hands of their far-reaching influence. Well over thirty years removed from the late 80’s boon of British and German Metallica clones you’d be remiss to not spend an evening listening to records from Amnesia, D.A.M., Despair, Accu§er etc. and bask in the collective ‘meh’ that these talented musicians produced in great quantity all in the name of riding the infectious wave of the Bay Area thrash phenomenon. It persists as a refined and moderately rare artform in the present day but to see anything remotely as interesting as that first wave of thrashing affected youth in the 80’s, cranked out of their minds and ripping out riffs as fast as they could, hardly ever comes with comparably balanced sensibilities a la Critical Defiance. Purity of form is absolutely a reminder of how powerful classic thrash metal was; You’ll feel the stadium-crushing hulk of ‘Ride the Lightning’ as much as the twisted technical butchery of ‘Eternal Devastation’ from the start of ‘Misconception’ but the full width of the record shows even greater mastery of all classic thrash forms as it spins.

The brutal thresher of near-death thrashers like Turbo‘s ‘Dead End’, Kreator‘s ‘Pleasure to Kill’ and Sepultura‘s ‘Beneath the Remains’ are comparable analogs for the level of tonal grittiness the production provides on ‘Misconception’ but the style Critical Defiance sports channels the meticulous ferocity of prime Coroner, the dynamic intensity of Evildead, and a general timbre that reminds me of Acrophet. Even if you don’t know what the hell any/all of those bands sound like the gist is that it is a riff-driven classic thrash album that voids any direct dips into death metal, hardcore punk, or progressive metal. If placed next to ‘Oppressing the Masses’ and ‘Time Does Not Heal’ on a shelf it would hold up in good form and I can’t remember the last time I could say that about a post-2000 pure thrash record. Now, to be fair, the love of classic ’83-’91 thrash metal is probably a requirement for my own level of enthusiasm but the appeal of intricate and dynamically whipped thrash riffs ultimately transcends all prior knowledge or provenance. At the very least you won’t feel like you’re listening to the wiffle-ball riffs of Evile or the underthought mushiness of Crisix; Critical Defiance offer songwriting immersive enough that the ‘old school’ sound doesn’t begin to suggest retro parody or rote tonal imitation.

What’d be the perfect thrash album in 2019? A globe scraping pillar of the sub-genres most classic aspects undiluted by the lazy groove and post-thrash of the 1990’s is all that I will accept and maybe that speaks to my own appreciation for classic thrash metal. Does Critical Defiance‘s appeal stem entirely from their near perfect rendering of thrash sound and style alone? The universal appeal of ‘Misconception’ is the same as that of early Metallica in the sense that it is a -great- set of heavy metal songs that are driven by resistant attitude and rhythm guitar worship alike; These songs portray a dire narrative, a still-resonant aura of disillusion as they play. As numb as you might be to the sheer violence of modernist heavy metal today these old ways still resonate in the memory in an effortless way.

The torrent of riff that bulges at the start of “Desert Ways” is deceptive in the sense that you might figure Critical Defiance are just a ‘Times Does Not Heal’-cranked riff-salad band but each song that comes after that generally avoids that ‘variation on theme’ sort of feeling that retro-thrash typically constipates itself with. The strike of that first song sets a standard of urgency that feels extreme enough to thrive within Chile’s fantastically enthusiastic heavy metal traditions. Though they are not a technical thrash metal band in sole purpose or gimmick the level of intertwining arcs of guitar riff constantly approach prime death/thrash intensity, a defining trait of Critical Defiance‘s compositional values. The duo of “Punished Existence” and “507” are the peak expression of the ‘Ride the Lightning’-esque DNA that I’d referred to earlier; This part of the album left the deepest impression on initial listens, particularly the melodic intro to “507” that flows perfectly off of the early Slayer vibe of “Punished Existence” and highlights the album. I know some of these songs have been ruminating since at least their promotional demo in 2016, which featured an early version of “Punished Existence” and the most exemplar late 80’s thrash track, “Onset” which I’d suggest is a great highlight. The distinctly satisfying Bay Area tradition of closing a record with a hardcorish, high-tempo track lives on within the closer, and title track, “Misconception”; Without this song the album would lack some of its appeal as it completes the satisfying loop ‘Misconception’ has as a full listen on repeat. I found myself easily listening to this record 4-5 times on a repeat for a full afternoon.

Whether or not you dig beyond the gritty quake of its classic thrash sound and inspired turn-on-a-dime rhythmic compositions towards the deeper meaning of ‘Misconception’ you will be moved by the riffs and sheer brilliance of the arrangements. All things considered it is an exemplar release, detailed and intentional in every aspect of its expression, that sets a high bar for pure thrash metal production values and composition. Beyond the thrill of discovering a new and impassioned classic thrash metal influenced band arriving at above-average levels of fidelity upon their debut, this Critical Defiance album comes with my highest recommendation because it is so consistently memorable and strikingly intense at once. For preview I’d suggest the riff-obsessed will be happy with any entry point but, you should fire up “Desert Ways” first; To grasp the greater jib of the full listen I’d recommend the duo of “Punished Existence” and “507” along with “Onset” if you still need more riffs.


Pursuit Of Chaos - 86%

Larry6990, March 13th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2019, CD, Unspeakable Axe Records

Countless thrash metal acts over the past decade have declared themselves true to the 'old school'. But let's be honest, how many have actually achieved that authentic late-'80s vibe that really takes you back; mind, body and soul? Some have come close, but that spark of a familiar bygone era is way too difficult to pinpoint. Well, for the first time ever, I can honestly say that there is a thrash metal band who sincerely conjure the feeling of the initial surge of the genre. Hailing from Chile, Critical Defiance evoke memories of acts like Carnivore, Demolition Hammer or possibly even early Heathen. Without pretence, without insincerity. This is 100% old-school thrash metal done the right way. Misconception may be this quartet's first full-length record, but they've still managed to carve out their own niche characteristics.

Aside from the phenomenal Carnivore-esque album art, the biggest contributor to this old-school vibe is the production quality. This is where I garner the majority of my enjoyment of this album. Misconception is drenched in reverb, with the drums being slightly overpowering - though not in a bad way at all! I can't get enough of that deep, clattery snare or the cavernous cymbals. Instant grins all round for taking me back the second "Desert Ways" explodes out of the speakers. Luckily, the earthy guitar tone still manages to cut through the clamour and give us some of the finest thrash riffs that Dark Angel wish they wrote. In fact, that turns out to be the focal point of this album - because there is little else! Sure there's the occasional Kerry King-esque solo, or gang-shout chorus, but this LP is largely made up of piles upon piles of razor-sharp riffage - ranging from the hammeringly simplistic to the progressively angular.

I'll go one further by saying Misconception is at least 75% instrumental. Sure, Felipe Alvarado's vocals are rough, raw and angry as hell - absolutely no fault there - but minutes and minutes can pass by with no hint of voices. In fact, we get about 3 minutes into the opening track before we hear any vocals at all! A shame in some ways because the gang-shouts in tracks like "What About You?" are irresistible. But thankfully the sheer quality of riff work going on here is stratospherically good. Yeah, most of the riffs are executed at breakneck speed, but the slower, groovier moments do shine (I always prefer thrash bands that can groove at slow-to-mid pace). Track 7, "Pursuit Of Chaos", exhibits the best of all these characteristics; boasting powerful gang vocals, a ripping central performance from Alvarado, groovy riffs, rapid-fire riffs, and an extensive solo section which melts my face. A clear-cut highlight.

Through all the manic tempo-changes, cycles of riffs, blazing solos and general fucking insanity - only one thing sticks out as being clear upon first listen. Track 6, "Onset" is the best cut on the disc, and a surefire benchmark for thrash in 2019. This 7-minute masterpiece slices through your skin with dissonant, irregular riffs and a non-stop steamroller of old school raw thrash madness. The riff that kicks in at 1:03 is pure gold. I honestly can't get enough. One of the few tracks from this year I've used the 'repeat' button for. Generally, if you're a fan of the retro underground thrash stuff like the aforementioned Carnivore or possibly early Sepultura, then this going to whet your appetite like a steak cooked by Gordon Ramsay. It might be a tad brief, could do with an extra chunk of meat, but Misconception has my eyes firmly locked onto Critical Defiance to see what they might pull off next. Here's to the true old school!

Miss Conception - 80%

SweetLeaf95, February 11th, 2019

What’s this? Thrash metal from South America that doesn’t sound exactly like Sepultura? What a find! Indeed, Critical Defiance, a band hailing from Chile, reflects the Bay Area style more than anything, and their debut full-length Misconception is upon the horizon. Essentially, this record is an angry beast filled with advanced riff work that doesn’t quite reach progressive level, but they have a pretty established hand for songwriting, topped with raspy, yelled vocals.

Thankfully, the instrumentation takes a lot of the forefront here, because that’s what I like about it most. There are a plethora of different executions, such as album opener “Desert Ways” with its stripped-down, basic approach with repeated high note tapping. On the other hand, you can find ones like the longer tune “Onset” that go absolutely nuts on the fretboard with solo after solo, using slower melodic sections to break them up. The drum patterns go beyond the norm, as they do more than just keep time and fill in the gaps excellently. The only issue is that shoddy production keeps them from jumping out.

Vocally, it’s a little hard to listen to. Most of the vocals come in on the fastest moments of the songs, making Misconception veer into crossover territory. But they’re not concise at all and don’t have the unsettling nature that the first wave of German thrashers had. If you’re gonna have sloppy vocals, the delivery should at least have the right attitude. This doesn’t destroy the record though, because the music itself makes for the center of the attention, mostly. And again, they aren’t horrible, but rough on the ear.

The final track, the title track, is probably the most aggressive part of this (even though it closes on a clean note), as it has the fastest riffs, the drums fire through extremely rapidly, and if the vocals were just a bit darker, it’d teeter into blackened territory. So when push comes to shove, this disc will be very fitting for those that seek aggressive and advanced guitar construction with few slower melodic moments in between.

Originally written for Indy Metal Vault