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Spies from Down Under Ending the Cold War - 78%

bayern, January 1st, 2018

These guys started early in 1992 under the name Vanadium, and their ties to other Australian acts (Alarum, Redeemer, Addictive, etc.) were an indication that we weren’t talking some overenthusiastic novices here, but we had serious, experienced musicians determined to keep the thrash metal idea alive for as long as it took…

And they did, truth be told, with inspiration to spare although it took them a while to gain inertia once they changed their name. The debut was an explosive affair, an aggressive slab of unbridled old school thrash with bold deathy “injections” akin to Sepultura’s “Beneath the Remains” and Devastation’s “Idolatry”, only occasionally blast-beat decorated. Another lengthy 5-year hiatus followed broken by “The Violence Continuum”, a less impressive, albeit nearly as intense, affair featuring a couple of not very desirable belated groovy “updates”.

The band found some reason to re-release this second instalment which was followed by another four years of silence until the album reviewed here appeared. A pleasant surprise for a large portion the time, it saw the guys having grown as musicians, having used the break wisely to come up with this cool less ordinary, quasi-progressive thrash fiesta which would still hold fascination for their old fans. The newly acquired proficiency is displayed in all its stylish vigour on the opening “Dissension of the Raptor”, a great technical number with surging angular riffs, impetuous speedy crescendos, and a few heavy meaty stopovers, a delightful compendium followed by “State of Siege”, direct ripping thrash without any ados. “A Lament for Victor Jara” is “a lament” indeed, a serene poignant ballad which is hard to be justified, arriving after just two lively thrashers, saved by the singer who surprisingly epitomizes a much calmer, cleaner baritone compared to his prevalent spiteful shouty antics.

“Tears of the Exiled” is an ambitious progressiver combining pounding mid-tempo thrash with officiant doomy overtones, and before the listener starts worrying about the way things have turned out recently, comes “Caravan of Death” to pacify him/her with a nice portion of intricate speedy thrash/death variations. No such films on “Villa Grimaldi” which is another attempt at progressive thrash, but made in a somewhat downbeat semi-balladic manner the band failing to make the best from the several more aggressive dashes. They finally nail it in this trend, on “Operation Condor”, 8-min of explosive technical/progressive thrashisms, with short spasmodic blast-beats taking turns with clever elaborate riff-formulas. The closing ballad “Requiem Eternal” is way more relevant than the first such showing, serving as a soothing epitaph to this eventful, diverse recording the vocalist pulling it off once again with assured more lyrical performance.

The guys had to diversify their palette if they wanted to display their bigger musical dexterity, and although this has resulted in a loss of intensity and a certain lack of focus here and there, the final product is by all means on the positive side. Trying to expand beyond the boundaries of the good old thrash is well noted although the inclusion of two whole ballads on an opus of the kind is a bit too much, especially when the first one serves to no purpose, but to break the nicely accumulated inertia. Still, thinking out of the box should always be encouraged, especially when it doesn’t leave such an intolerable aftertaste, but working around those longer, more complex compositions would also come recommended as there was some ballast on them that could have been left out, or at least made a tad more dynamic. Now a certain amount of time is spent in calm, not necessarily very deep, baladic/semi-balladic/doomy waters the situation making the fan uncertain as to what direction the album would swing on the next track…

In other words, there’s work to be done on future showings, but since the band are not exactly the most productive outfit on the planet, no one can tell when their next descent would take place. At least The Cold War is over; they don’t have to worry about iron curtains and other divisive metallic constructions, not with the old school running rampant around in the new millennium anyway.