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A Shrapnel Downpour Near-Drowns Humanity - 81%

bayern, August 10th, 2022

Yeah, the band finally came out with a wholesome outing! Toxik beverage all around to celebrate the end of the long wait, and also to enhance the enormous sign of relief that this wasn’t another subversive track-dripping/leaking operation, misleading signs of which were the two singles (“Power”, “Creating the Abyss”) that came cleaning up front initially. Nope, those were just marketing tools, which also handsomely showed which way this opus would swerve.

Right off-the-bat, this effort is by no means as good as the “In Humanity” package; it lacks the latter’s complex gravity and creative exuberance; intentionally to these ears as Josh Christian’s agenda is quite different this time around. If the previous collection bravely tried to explore a few untrodden by the band trajectories, this one here is strictly a combination of the guys’ first two instalments, only wrapped in a modernized, sometimes sterilely abrasive cloak. This last ingredient may be hard to stomach by the purists, but a few listens down the line one should learn to tolerate it, cause after all we have either “Think Circus” or “This World”, depending on which title you fancy more, and this slab does deliver if viewed from this reminiscence perspective.

The other thing that will hit you straight in the face/ears, pretty much from the very first tunes, is Christian’s overt passion for the guitar virtuoso histrionics. The man has long since proved himself as a hugely gifted six-stringer, but here he’s absolutely unhinged: he shreds, solos, leads and riffs with youthful enthusiasm, both combining and racing with Malmsteen and Impellitteri every bit of the way, apparently intent on resurrecting the activities of the defunct Shrapnel label. Seriously, if Mike Varney and his colleagues hear (not just think) this, their one and only thought would be to bring back their old company, promptly, on the spot; and to instantly sign Christian and his toxic… sorry, toxik colleagues as their new flag carriers.

So is there anything else apart from dazzling guitar pyrotechnics here? Yep there is, a solid speed/thrash base on which Christian to weave his lofty six-string fantasies, one part modelled after the mentioned “Power” piece, short pulverizing speedsters extracted from the very core of the “World Circus”, some of those (“Straight Razor”) melting your face with their sweeping razor-sharp immediacy; others (“Feeding Frenzy”) pouring flasks of more technical tricks over their hyper-active foundation. The side that tends to the lovers of the “Think This” entanglements is only slightly hinted at with the mentioned “Creating the Abyss” single, a cool dramatic dystopian twister which more ambitious layout is more deftly revealed later on, on the jumpy labyrinthine “Hyper Reality”, the few heavy semi-balladic developments witnessed accompanying a couple of fervent speedy skirmishes on “Chasing Mercury”, “Devil in the Mirror” another thinking elaborate striver built on a restless thrashy engine, “Judas” at the end betraying no one with a more academic array of moods and nuances, winking at the sophomore as well with a more restrained, fuller-fledged prog-metal layout.

The band old fans should be happy all over as again this outing tries to extract the essence from the first two albums, the musicians also serving the boosted modern production to probably attract new audience. Said audience should have no major complaints as everyone performs more than adequately, Ron Iglesias creating a lot of drama behind the mike, spreading his vocal abilities fairly widely, covering several octaves with ease. But he is simply bound to sing his heart out if he doesn’t want to be completely sidelined by Christian’s over-the-top exploits, with shreds, riffs and leads tossed in the air at every opportunity, the man turning this effort into a one-man show on occasion, occupying all the space provided with his six-string dexterity. There’s also this more or less intentional modernism (curt sterile riffage, brief groovy segments, etc.) thrown in at times that may annoy the ear, like the man subconsciously tries to expand on the formula he tried on the “Breaking Class” EP, but fortunately those moments are put in reins timely for the most part… the circus can't possibly acquire glaring numetal blemishes. Not during this trip down memory lane…

will I take this trip again in the coming days? Definitely; but not because I’ll be waiting to hear a nuance or motif that I’ve missed to catch the first few times around. I think I’ve mapped out this opus pretty well now. After all, it’s a look back at a glorious past period; a safe one. But it can't be any other way having in mind who does the supervision here: a rampant guitar hero whose omnipresence should calm humanity down. Will he promise it salvation with his next saga? Quite possibly, now that the nostalgia has been taken care of here… and, he already had a superb blueprint prepared before that one. A piece of cake.