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Steel-toecaps resurrected - 71%

gasmask_colostomy, August 27th, 2018

How many “original era” thrash metal bands have reformed this side of the millennium? I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s a lot, possibly too many, which does make one wonder whether there were really so many underground thrash groups in the ‘80s or whether they are simply making up demos that sound old as a means for promoting their comeback albums. Infrared hung around for 5 years at the end of the ‘80s, but only managed to squeeze out a 4 track demo that later become the basis for 2016’s reformation release No Peace. 2 years later and here we are again with a totally new set of songs.

As thrash comebacks go, this second album from the Canadians is at least slightly welcome due to the fact that it doesn’t make a habit of throwing out familiar tropes willy-nilly and hoping they will be accepted. Comparisons to Saviours could be drawn from Metallica’s late-‘80s period of mild experimentation, as well as Testament or Forbidden’s pace and vocal style, which comes out most clearly on closer 'Genocide Convention'. That should be a hint that this isn’t a straightforward attempt to revisit youthful speed and aggression, but a more roundabout trip through technicality and plenty of melody. In fact, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say that Saviours doesn’t really become a thrash release at all until its second half, when 'All in Favour' and 'Genocide Convention' bury that particular hatchet with the past in formidable style. As those song titles might be enough to guess from, political frustration and social ills take up the majority of Armin Kamal’s lyrics. Of course, that doesn’t preclude a set of songs averaging over 6 minutes apiece from taking plenty of time building up to certain high points and heavy moments on each of the 8 cuts.

A minor issue with such a lengthy approach is that this kind of hard-hitting steel-toecapped thrash isn’t meant to hang around for too long, so the repetitive chugging during 'They Kill for Gods' or the drawn-out balladic structure of 'The Fallen' won’t tickle the pickle of anyone looking for a more thorough beating. Some similar techniques in the build and release sections on 'Father of Lies' might also prove frustrating for those in search of action rather than atmosphere. That said, there are benefits to taking some pace off the previous album’s more direct approach, not least that the anthemic nature of the choruses get full support, especially when 'The Demagogue' drops the speed for a driving chorus or 'Project Karma' invites the listener to roar out the climax of its refrain. That means that some of the middle of the album would benefit from trimming down, but the overall effect is of enough detail and highlights to sustain the experience.

The sticking point for anyone on the verge of investing in another thrash group is the durability of the songs and perhaps also the tastiness of the musicians’ chops, on which points Infrared can’t absolutely swing the balance. It’s true that there is enough replay value in the explorative virtues of the relaxed mid-section to 'All in Favour' and the rhythmic technicality on display during the title track, while a few details will seep into the consciousness as familiarity is built up; for example, the tasty classic melody inserted into 'The Demagogue', which is only played twice as if to tempt listeners to return. The musicianship, on the other hand, won’t blow any minds even if Infrared resist rehashing familiar re-thrash tropes, such as slam riffs and too many gang vocals, though the latter suit 'All in Favour' on a thematic level. Essentially, the group offer a competent showing from each instrument without pushing anything particular to the fore, forming a careful balance between lead playing, thick groove, and mild atmosphere. As such, Saviours won’t be at the top of the reunion thrash pile, but you could do a lot worse than taking a chance on the Canadians.

Originally written for The Metal Observer - ‎