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A Blood Sample from a Dying Thrashing Breed - 93%

bayern, February 2nd, 2017

Since the majority of the 80’s US thrash metal practitioners had either disbanded, or had mutated towards the modern new metal vogues by the mid-90’s, there had to appear new budding musicians to keep the retro thrash flame alive, at least as defiance to the new metal canons if not for anything else. Fortunately, a few old-timers (Believer, Reverend, Anacrusis, Defiance), who had retained their classic roots, were still around to help this batch of talented newcomers: Betrayal, Havoc Mass, Mystik, Wardog, Crucifer, Forte, Wrekking Machine, Dead Orchestra, Degradation take off and carve a burrow along the thickening groovy/post-thrashy layer, each in their own way.

Degradation belong to the more technical side of the thrash metal movement where the aforementioned Believer and Anacrusis reside. Hailing from Tampa, Florida, one may expect a more aggressive, death metal-ornated interpretation of the genre, and indeed there are a few more brutal elements to be come across, most likely brought by the guitar player Dana Walsh who was also a member of the death metal legends Brutality at around the same time. The band’s only full-length is less than half an hour of consummate intricate thrash, still quite faithful to the old canons for most of the time. The opening “Into the Red”, however, doesn’t promise too much of classic thrash histrionics with its stomping, proto-groovy riffage which is more dynamic than the aggro-rhythms of Pantera and Machine Head, but comes from pretty much the same school. Starts “Normlizer”, and the situation changes immediately this number pouring blissful speedy guitars over the euphoric listener who will thoroughly savour the dramatic accumulations, the blazing leads, and the crazy time and tempo-shifts.

“Behind the Door” provides a heavy, choppy section as a start, but expect all hell unleashed in the second half where the guys start moshing like demented. “Terminal” is 2-min of technical guitar pyrotechnics which jump up and down to a dizzying effect the ensuing drama never going towards the fast pace, also graced by a great short screamy lead stroke. “Eugenics” begins with a whirlwind of death metal-ish build-ups which flow into smashing technical mazes ala Nasty Savage’s “Penetration Point” those followed by sweeping surreal, more dynamic thrashing as a finishing touch. “Judgement” “judges” no one, just provides hectic, overlapping technicality the intricate riffs bumping into each other on both the speedier and the slower, pounding passages later forming a tight, undecipherable knot with the insane, screamy leads. “The Hourglass” will throw you into an atonal, almost backward played, “waltz” which only gets more and more spiral-like not without the help of another super-twisted lead section; crazy tempo shifts follow suit taken straight from Atheist’s “Unquestionable Presence” leaving no room whatsoever for any semblance of normality on this unparalleled shredfest. It’s difficult to surpass such a masterpiece, and the guys don’t try hard on the closing “Darkness” which, albeit being the longest composition (nearly 5-min), doesn’t offer anything outside-the-box content enough to thrash in a minimalistic brooding manner the slightly downbeat approach more fitting to the hoarse semi-death metal vocalist; still, the guys lose patience towards the end and serve a vitriolic technical sweep as a finale.

The degrading 90’s music scene could only benefit from such rebellious stances; the problem is that those who produced them were well aware that they would hardly last beyond the one-album-wonder tag as no one would have allowed them to further corrode the dominant trends with their classic metal hereticisms. Those who didn’t care about any recognition carried on with their bold retro statements; those who wanted to grab a share of the 90’s glory had no choice but to conform…

And conform they did, the Degradation guys I mean, at least some of them including Walsh whose next “fix” was American Fix, a modern thrash act who also saw him reuniting with another Brutality axeman, Pete Sykes. The result from their collaboration was a quite plain, ordinary compilation of tracks without any technical flourishes “courting” the groove when the latter had almost completely fallen from grace. In other words, their only effort so far (“Sick of This”, 2011) is an attempt to return the 90’s fashion back in the game in the new millennium, the way Degradation tried to save old school thrash some dignity back then… Yeah, people change, it’s a colourful, unpredictable world out there, full of paradoxes, so it should be no wonder if the next fix is a nod to the old “bloody revelation”.