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You Have Been Laid To Waste - 98%

DawnoftheShred, April 24th, 2007

This album requires no introduction, but I'll give it one anyway. Even with the underground success of their debut Waste 'Em All, no one could have anticipated the unprecedented amount of high-speed destruction Municipal Waste would be capable of commanding on their follow-up album, Hazardous Mutation. Signed to Earache fucking records, brandishing cover art prepared by the legendary Ed Repka, and sporting production so flawlessly brutal that anyone with ears should be envious, Municipal Waste are almost single-handedly responsible for leading the new generation of thrash bands out from the underground and back into the spotlight, themselves being the first success story.

*EDIT* Originally I gave this record a flat 100 and I still stand by the fact that the album is flat-out perfect from beginning to end as far as instrumentation, pace, songwriting, etc. are concerned. Only reason I've docked it any now is on the basis of originality. Painful as it is to admit, my beloved Municipal Waste do borrow heavily from the Bay Area riff templates on this one, particularly from Vio-lence and Slayer, with the obvious D.R.I. and C.O.C. tropes incorporated as well. And of course, Tankard will forever have the market cornered when it comes to booze-soaked brewtality. Still, whatever stark originality the band lack, they make up for with sheer bravado and the conscious effort to maximize the fun, metal-thrashing madness that should be near-paramount in one's expectations for a heavy metal band. "Fun? Fun?! We won't be having any of that! How are we supposed to support the rebirth of pagan Scandinavia if we're having fun?" Well, for starters, you could try emerging from your parent's basement in sunny SoCal from time to time to graduate high school, you malicious putz. Don't like the idea of new bands playing old thrash? Then get the fuck out. Originality is so important? I've seen its excesses (Fantomas, Sunn) and if that's what it's bringing to the table, I do not want it. Sometimes the subtle approach is not the best: in pornography, there's a reason it's called the money shot. That's what Hazardous Mutation most blatantly is: the money shot of the latter day thrash movement, and certainly one of the finest albums of its kind in its decade. Now back to your regularly scheduled review.

First things first, the production. Their first album had better production than their self-titled EP, but it was still pretty raw for 2003. Hazardous Mutation, on the other hand, is a masterpiece of metal engineering, heavier than shit and polished crystal clear, but without compromising the band's old-school credibility by coming off as overproduced. It's just fucking perfect, Reign in Blood, Rust in Peace, Among the Living: none of these match this album in terms of production. The drums sound amazing and are represented in all their fury. The bass guitar, being relevant in the band's sound, is relevant in the mix, trumping dozens of classic thrash albums that neglectfully mixed out the bass. The guitar tone is at least a thousand times more brutal than on the last album and crushes the listener proportionally. And Tony Foresta's vocals. He still rips through his lines DRI-style, but due to the elevated level and clarity of the vocal mix, you can hear every damn word he says. I really can't express my love for the production enough, but I recommend you hear it yourself rather than take my word for it.

As for the songs, the Waste crew increased the average length of their songs, but without sacrificing a shred of speed or intensity. No song even dares approach the three minute mark (the average is still less than two), but the added length allows for more riff development (and consequently, more riffage). This is even thrashier, but just as in touch with the band's hardcore punk side as ever, musically and lyrically. Though there's now longer, mosh-tastic neck-snappers such as "Mind Eraser" and "Set to Destruct," there's still the ultra-quick punky tunes in the vein of "Blood Drive" and the title track (note them blast beats in the latter). Perhaps you happen to be the type that misses those really fast speedcore numbers. "Black Ice" is only twenty seconds, included just for you. There's even a few guitar solos on here, thrown in when the moment strikes them just right. The thing that really distinguishes this band is the quality of the riffage. Most crossover bands, in order to maintain that breakneck pace, sacrifice the riffs, playing forgettable chord progressions really fast. Municipal Waste packs as much innovation in as they can, ensuring that every riff will kick your ass, no matter how fast. That is what makes them truly admirable and will make them legendary.

The band's lyrics continue in the vein of their last album, carrying on the tradition of DRI, Nuclear Assaul, SOD, etc. Clever phrasing, fun subject matter, and killer wit. Also commendable.

So every song on here is fucking sweet. Regardless, there are still a few that rise above and beyond the call of duty. "Unleash the Bastards," of which an insane video was made, showcases all the band's best riff styles: the intense double-time thrashing, the mid-paced most riffs, and the ungodly cool Maiden-esque harmony riffs that come out of nowhere. Seriously, check out the brilliant riff sequence starting at 0:59. Beautiful. "Mind Eraser" is arguably the heaviest on here and has some great lyrics on binge drinking; the spiritual successor to "Drunk as Shit" off the last album. But the true masterpiece of this album is "The Thrashin' of the Christ." Featuring the ultimate in half-time crush riffs, that divinely clever title, and a Tom Araya-approved wail from Foresta, this song is an easy contender for Best Thrash Song of '05, should such an accolade ever be given.

This album could not have been better if it tried to be, and I'm pretty sure it did. It's inhumanly heavy and lightning fast: I probably listened to the whole thing twice while writing this review. I'm usually not too critical against an album's detractors, but if you listen to this and you aren't immediately convinced that it rules, you've got to be some new breed of asshole. This is the perfect embodiment of the thrash spirit and easily one of the best albums of its kind. Really fucking recommended.