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Nine year wedgie - 72%

gasmask_colostomy, September 12th, 2019

You’ve got to admire how Zergoth are trying to sell their nine year silence as a “thrash odyssey”. I’m sure a lot of the time between debut Psychological Defense and this recent sophomore was pretty boring, but you wouldn’t know it from how they describe the songs on Thrash Odyssey as steps on their journey to completing the album. It makes one wonder how ‘Infinite Wedgie’ fitted into their experiences. Despite that inauspicious joke, Zergoth tread around most of the humorous trends of the pizza thrash wave on which they originally arrived like a slice of American salami, opting more for socio-psychological themes and the odd ode to metal in ‘Let the Head Bang’. The heavily melodic presence of Megadeth and ‘80s trad metal hasn’t been completely abandoned this time around, though a more thorough command of the drum machine and sharper riffing leads to the heavier tracks hitting harder, while the vocals do more than pull their weight after an awkward debut performance.

However, complementing Zergoth on their progress comes with the consideration that there remains a great deal of newer thrash metal that most metalheads won’t look twice at, which is likely to be the destiny of Thrash Odyssey. Not only due to the drum machine, but also the three instrumentals floating around on this 10 track album, negative associations may arise even before listening. I’m of the view that these guys didn’t really need to make ‘Infinite Wedgie’ and ‘I Know’ wholly instrumental – not at lengths approaching four minutes, anyway – though ‘Russian Raid’ encapsulates what they were trying to do in a jaunty two minutes full of character and picturesque melodic themes. Understandably, these three songs come across as an attempt to spice up fairly familiar mid-paced thrash with a degree of unpredictability, an effort partly assisted by the strong bass action of multi-tasking guitarist Carlos Enriquez. In fact, the bass sticks out warmly on several occasions, the melodic bounce of its tone placing the energy of ‘Unfinished Business’ closer to speed or classic heavy metal than thrash.

Another distraction from the familiarity of Zergoth’s genre is the dynamic vocal presence of Brandon Hoover. He’s clearly spent his time well since the debut, cranking up a weak Dave Mustaine impersonation to a full range of shrieks, yells, and some rougher yowls, as well as some commonplace melodic singing during the chorus of ‘Let the Head Bang’. Making the most of the vocal-led songs, Hoover’s personality really extends over ‘Eve of Odyssey’ and ‘Zakakaka’, proving the most extreme part of the band’s melodic concoction and adding some urgency to otherwise fairly relaxed guitar riffing. On Thrash Odyssey, he reminds me of Overkill’s Bobby Blitz at times, as well as resembling Russ Anderson of Forbidden in tone and phrasing, which is no bad thing. On the other hand, the band seems to be reluctant to utilize Hoover at faster moments to bring songs to a boil, which leaves the album with something missing in terms of intensity, especially in the second half.

That means fans of serious thrash metal will come up against a few issues with lack of pace and lack of heaviness, only getting their kicks on ‘Eve of Odyssey’, ‘Unfinished Business’, and a gratifying moment when the bass drum finally kicks in during the tense ‘Prison Planet’. Plenty of time is spent building atmosphere through slower introductions and moody rhythmic sections, though I would have preferred Zergoth to throw a few more riffs on the barbecue and garnish them with the melodic leads that Enriquez seems quite capable of pulling out at will. The well-structured progress of the title track seems worthy of the six minutes allotted, though ‘A Friend in Hell’ and ‘Let the Head Bang’ could have done with being a little tighter. All this means that Zergoth aren’t quite ready for world domination, but a much more creative and interesting second album proves that 21st century thrash hasn’t explored all its possibilities. Though it seems unlikely for now, I’d be pleased to see these guys flesh out their line-up and take the stage at some point, since I’m sure this would be a lot of fun live. Maybe sometime in the next nine years, eh?