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Of fingerpaintings and beachballs... - 45%

BastardHead, February 16th, 2009

When I was a young lad, I loved metal. In the early stages of puberty, the only thoughts running through my mind (apart from the quite obvious ones that all little boys who aren't named Richard Simmons undoubtedly had), were thoughts of rock and roll superstardom. I would jump off my bed and air guitar to Highway to Hell, I would tunelessly screech along with Run to the Hills, and I'd strain my acne stained face as hard as I could as I tried to perfect my "metal face" that I'd use in all of my promotional photos. I was a dreamer, and I'd be damned if anybody had tried to explain to me that Metallica was not the pinnacle of speed and musicianship and that Guns n' Roses wasn't the most talented ensemble of musicians ever to exist. Fuck that! I was in my own personal heaven, a land where my fictional thrash metal band, Sewer Skum, was king of the world and all of the kids looked up to me as a bass god. Obviously, this sounds retarded now, but it was the coolest shit in the world when I was ten. Slayer was too brutal for me, and I thought that Testament was underground thrash that nobody except the lucky few had heard before.

If I had actually started that band when I was ten years old, it probably would've sounded like Hatchet.

The bay area kids keep up the regional tradition of solid riffing couple with searing leads, but Awaiting Evil seems to be more of an instructional how-to guide on thrash as opposed to a work of literary thrash classicism. While they do their worship fairly well, they don't carry the ferocity necessary to overcome the deja vu. And frankly, this is one of those cases where I just can't help but feel like they are a group of amateurs who haven't been playing for more than a few years. Sure, they got the cool, older kid from school who knows how to play the tapping solo in One to join the band, but none of them can seem to write a lasting song without copy pasting Legacy era Testament riffs all over the place. This sounds green, like the fingerpaintings of a kindergartener. They see the Monet pieces on the walls outside the classroom, and they really want to make the same art, but they lack the skills and knowledge to do so. So instead, they do what they can... fingerpaint. All of their shapes and colors accidentally start running into each other, and after a while the scattered splotches of vibrant color turns into one mass of brown. Likewise, while Frailty of the Flesh's opening riffset may initially grab you, the song and album eventually starts to run into one indistinguishable mess of Kill 'em All rehashes.

I also feel like I have to mention the vocals, which I think suck. I can't tell if he isn't trying, or if he is just some friend of the musicians who wanted to be in the band, but lacked any sort of instrumental talent, so they let him be the vocalist. For all I know, he was just sick when he recorded his lines, and he usually sounds like a raging behemoth from the depths of hell when running on all cylinders, but that doesn't excuse the lazy performance here. I understand that not everybody can sport the range of Rob Halford or the intensity of Blitz or the harshness off Mille Petrozza, but some people just lack in every category. I can look past the silly lyrics, I can ignore the recycled riffing, but I just can't trivialize a crappy vocal performance, especially when the music as dull as this. When riffs, leads, and drum patterns are as pedestrian as about 80% of these riffs are, the vocals will naturally jump to the forefront of your mind. In this case, it's a negative impression. It seems the vocalist has jumped ship recently, and this should hopefully signal bigger and better things for the band.

The one thing that I had initially thought was the saving grace of Awaiting Evil was the solos. Doubtlessly, these guitarists know their instruments well enough to construct a good amount of memorable harmonies and unconventional chord fingerings in a thrash context, but it's their hyperspeed leads and solos that immediately catch your attention. After a few songs, I began to realize why, and that's because they are mixed so unnecessarily high that it'd be impossible not to perk up attentively. Okay, I'm glad that you guys have pinpointed your greatest strength, but doing the auditory equivalent of strapping a big neon sign to it's back is nothing short of irritating.

Now, I mean this next statement not as an insult, but merely an observation. Hatchet reminds me of Trivium. A group of young guys heard a sound they really liked. They yearned of being a part of the scene, so they started up a band (isn't that why we all start?) and did their damnedest to do justice to their heroes. In the end, their individual homage turned out as little more than an uninspired and dull regurgitation of their signature styles. If you've heard Kill 'em All, Testament's first four albums, or any mid era Exodus, you aren't missing anything at all. Hatchet's first album is ultimately another pointless, if capable, addition to the thrash metal scene. They have the skill and technique to play proficiently, now they just need to channel their energy into writing.