Was Thrash a fad? With the indomitable rise of The Big 4 to the point of global phenomenon in the eighties, along with the likes of Exodus and Testament to name but a few, the sub-genre was a world-conquering behemoth with no signs of relinquishing its stranglehold on the zeitgeist. With Metallica’s turn to stadium Rock on their self-titled effort – better known as The Black Album (Elektra) – and the emergence of the Seattle Grunge movement, Thrash was dead in the water, being dropped into obscurity as rapidly as it had become a buzzword.
In both the mid-to-late noughties and in later years it has been a resurgence, recently thanks to contemporaries such as Power Trip and Havok, but it has never quite recaptured imaginations as it did. Perhaps introducing a blackened element to the sound will kick-start a second Thrash revolution?
‘Keine Angst’, the first track proper of Ketzer’s latest album, Cloud Collider (Metal Blade), leans heavily into this blackened aspect. Wiry and scabrous guitars arrive in a flurry of extremity, and rasp-shouted vocals call to mind Norwegian Black Metal’s greats. The palm muting of notation and hypersonic playing fulfills the Thrash quota of the band’s genre-blending sound, making the song equal parts infernal and aptly scathing.
The album’s title track leaves room for a more expansive style of playing in its bridge sections, thus exploring a quintessential side of Black Metal that is a necessity of executing the infamous genre, however, the shredding, adept solos, and guitar fills hark back to the virtuosity of 80s Megadeth. Once again we see a band with a mature and deep understanding of the genres they wish to inhabit. A punishing percussive performance keeps the pace at rollickingly high beats per minute count and doesn’t let up for the first half of the album.
It’s in the mid-tempo tracks that the album distinguishes itself from any other release. ‘The Wind Brings Them Horses’ is a far more sinister sounding track than its predecessors and is akin to Slayer’s ‘Playing With Dolls’ insomuch as it is a relative ballad in amongst the chaos. Far more intricate than prior tracks, but with a swinging frenzy post-chorus, the song is a triumphant highlight in the album.
Cloud Collider is a vibrant blend of Black Metal and Thrash. It may not be the most original album ever written – it shares many similarities with Thrash and Black Metal progenitor Black Metal (Neat/Combat) by Venom in its pacing and song structures – but has a present-day polish that sets it apart from being a pale imitation. Musically the performances are infallible and provide a crushing amount of both Thrash and Black Metal to satisfy fans of either genre, while the vocal performance is evil enough to marry the two together. It isn’t perfect, but Thrash has always had a Punk edge to it, a ramshackle feeling that things could fall apart at any minute. The album is a success and mightily enjoyable.
7 / 10