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a thrash cream sundae with black & death toppings - 78%

TrooperEd, April 25th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2007, CD, Prosthetic Records

Did I mention substitutions are not allowed? As hard as it may be to believe, there are metal fans who love thrash but hate black and death metal. Specifically they hate the guttural and/or screechy vocal styles. If that's the case for you, you probably aren't going to like Beyond The Permafrost. Now some might argue that those vocals were in fact, at the very least a part of the German thrash staples, and my response is that most of those bands were either black or death metal bands at first, and even then you'd have to go before a committee before getting Persecution Mania or Pleasure To Kill as pure death metal. I wouldn't be opposed to it, but then again I think there's no such thing as viking metal and Hammerheart and Twilight of the Gods are doom metal so what would I know? I bring this up because if someone had asked me to check this album out as a thrash comeback ten years ago I would have immediately rejected it on the grounds of the vocals alone. Obviously these days, they're something I can tolerate, but there are thrashers who don't. What is interesting is Chance claimed that his favorite metal singer was Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth of Overkill, who, while not necessarily the most aurally pleasing sounding vocalist, will never be mistook for black metal. I'd also be lying if I said this album wasn't 100% devoid of melodic death metal-isms that most would claim to be an irritant and plague on the sub-genre. No one will be mistaking this for the output of Dark Tranquility or In Flames, and there are certainly no ridiculous instances of the guitars dropping out to accentuate the vocals nor whiny groove passages.

Still from a guitar perspective, I can say with confidence that most of those aforementioned heshers will recognize and celebrate Beyond The Permafrost as thrash with the occasional tremolo pick. There are also Maiden harmonies played at maximum intensity rather than half-speed. Skeletonwitch takes an almost Reign In Blood/Violent Restitution approach in that most of the songs are quick-fire blasts. There is not a single proper epic to be found here. The two longest songs on here are Baptized In Flames and Within My Blood, and the latter is inflated by an album closing crash-end (nice to see young upstarts take up old traditions). In addition, unlike say, Black Thrash Attack, I certainly don't recognize any "homages" from classics that one could be listening to instead of this, which is a net positive. One could make the argument that this is taking thrash in a bold new direction with the sprinkles of Gothenburg rather than building blocks, but I personally have had enough of that crap to last me several lifetimes. It's precisely why most true metal fans find Power Trip refreshing, because we're so sick of that Gothenburg crap.

Highlights: Baptized in Flames for its combination of catchy chorus and At The Gates rhythmic sensibilities. Sacrifice To The Slaughter has a schweet nod to the Dissections and Sacramentums of the world halfway through, followed by an incredible solo. Within My Blood is an excellent closer (featuring a bass solo of all things) that should prove capable of show-stopping at thrash gigs. But my favorite would probably be Fire From The Sky, a mischievous combination of Kill em All and Taking Over that practically takes the Hit The Lights riff and inverts it (dammit Kai, this is what Empire of the Undead should have been).

In conclusion, this album is lots of fun and a worthy contender for top 10 of the year in a barren post-Pantera world, but it's not quite a return to the Horrorscopes or Eternal Nightmare that some would hope for. If the dreaded "cookie monster" vocals aren't a problem for you, Beyond The Permafrost is worth your ducats.