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Slightly above-average modern thrash - 72%

Aeturnus65, July 8th, 2006

Swedish thrashers Thornclad appeared to have been a very minor blip on the modern thrash radar back when they recorded their debut in 1999. As with many young bands, their sort of one-and-done existence leaves little in terms of legacy beyond a hard-to-find album known by an especially small subset of metal fans. I just heard of these guys in mid-2006, curious of their sound mainly due to the fact that they had signed to Loud ‘n Proud records, a tiny label that, despite soon going belly-up, seemed to have remarkable luck in picking out some decent bands to fill its roster (relatively, at least – I’m talking Freternia, initial Persuader, Seven, Morifade, and so on). Like many other bands signed to them, Thornclad seemed to die a quick death, perhaps being pulled under by the drowning label. That’s unfortunate, because these guys did show some promise.

The sound here is easily described as late-80s thrash fitted to a modern sound. Indeed, Thornclad would have fit in very well back in, say, 1987 with their sound being a mix of numerous bands like Destruction, Dark Angel, and just about all the other usual suspects. Vocalist Viktor Klint sounds remarkably like an Arise/Chaos-era Max Cavalera with better pronunciation – angry and shouting yet slightly restrained, skipping the growling and shrieking that some thrash singers like to pull out every now and then.

Guitar-wise, it’s the expected slicing, palm-muted riffing done in an often speedy manner. Throw in plenty of solos, many having actual melodic value as opposed to random squawking, and some softer interludes, and instrumentally things are fine. The bass is a very minor part of the sound, which is somewhat to be expected I suppose, and the drummer possesses adequate skills in sounding like, well, a thrash drummer – speed and precision being the two necessary attributes, and this guy passes the test.

So why not a higher score? Two reasons, mainly – the first being the production. A style which would probably fit a power metal band well, this sound serves partially to castrate a thrash disc by making everything too quiet. The guitar tone is very sharp, if you will, but almost too thin. The drums as well just kind of click away in the background. There have been infinitely worse debuts, but I’d actually prefer a good dirty 1988 thrash production to this – here you can turn up the volume as loud as you want but things never really get any heavier – just noisier. In other – and perhaps more proper – words, the essence of thrash, that harnessing of speed and chaos into an invigorating sound, isn’t quite captured because everything just sounds too muted and harmless.

The other downfall is the overall sameness of much of the disc. There’s zero variation in the vocal approach, and the song structures themselves are just about all of the good-but-not-great variety. In one sense, though, lack of variation wasn’t really a sticking point for 80s thrash connoisseurs, so expecting any in a modern replica of that sound may be rather misguided. In any case, the only people bound to enjoy Thornclad are those already enamored with the thrash style. For a relatively modern take on a classic style, Thornclad, despite the muted production stripping some of the disc’s potential power, are a decent option.