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It's Thrash But I'm Not Thrashed - 65%

Apteronotus, March 26th, 2014

One time I was moving and put an absolute shitload of heavy stuff into one particular cardboard box, and it held up without breaking. I mention this, not because Life Against Death crams a lot of heavy stuff into their music but because they are the kind of band that gets the job done, but lacks any real character. This cardboard thrash band’s 22 minute fourth full-length album suffers from a problem that a lot of thrash bands have - being confined by their genre. Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a thrash band, but so many just come across as derivative even when you can’t point to one specific band as a main influence. Derivative bands typically aren’t as interesting and thrash in particular can be a really narrow style. So, what Life Against Death is left with is just a bunch of serviceable thrash riffs. While there isn’t anything here like what you’d hear from the masters of the genre, there isn’t anything bad either. What makes this different from every other thrash band? Well, there are the very energetic vocals, more of a punk feel than the average thrash band, the band is square shaped and corrugated - oops I’m thinking of cardboard boxes again. This ends up being acceptable though, I guess. I have a passion for metal and hey this is metal not boxes.

Still, It’s surprising how medium and average feeling this album is, even down to the riff level. They all feel like bridges you might hear in between the main riffs of an interesting band. I thought this was a demo as I was listening to it rather than the band’s fourth release. But it looks like Life Against Death has had a fair amount of lineup changes, so it is theoretically possible that the ten year old band is still finding its identity. I suppose it is worth mentioning that there are an unexpectedly high amount of low-energy slow shuffling riffs that don’t help anything, e.g “Meat Grin,” “The Poet,” and “Testify.” Still, it is like noticing a lot of extra packing tape on a box and doesn’t matter much. The vocals here are worth noting and alternate between low gutturals and a fairly high thrash rasp that one might expect to come from a female vocalist. The singer, Twitch, has an entirely convincing sense of vocal power, as if she doesn’t need a microphone. No the vocals aren’t mixed too loud, but you can absolutely tell they were delivered with force and it sounds really good. It would be great to hear the band keep up with the dynamic energy of the vocal work here, but that just doesn’t happen and nothing else is good, or bad.

There can be something very unsatisfying about an overwhelmingly middle of the road band that isn’t bad or good. Here, part of that is from how the band doesn’t vary the range of the guitars enough or create a dynamic sense of melody with their riffs. The melody is so constrained in either range, tempo or rhythm that everything blends together; and thus there is no movement. Thrash needs movement. There isn’t exactly an abundance of different riffs on these songs, but it would be speculation to say that the band needs to use more since they’d probably just fail to create energy more often. A better way to think of this release is to imagine all of the things that could go wrong and that need to go right when music happens. Then imagine none of those things happening. The most likely route for improvement would to have the band take more creative input from the vocalist who better understands how to make music.

Yes, this is thrash metal, but I am not thrashed.

Originally written for Contaminated Tones.