Ah, thrash metal, perhaps the one sub-genre within metal that garners forth the most nostalgia and good feeling. Flashback to a couple of decades ago and this little offshoot contained some of the biggest bands on the planet. Goliath-sized acts such as Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax were so highly regarded they even had their own gimmick, that being ‘The Big Four’.
Cut to now, and whilst the quality has never really dipped, the popularity has waned somewhat, Added to that, there seems a perception that thrash metal never really evolved and, from an outside perspective stagnated. Look deeper though, and the same level of musicianship and songwriting can be found in today’s thrash bands, indeed Havok who are perhaps the figurehead of the current thrash movement have released records that could easily sit among the genres best.
All of which brings us to Italian merchants Ultra-Violence, a band that exhibits virtues both old and new on latest album Operation Misdirection (Candlelight)
‘Cadaver Decomposition Island’ gets the ball rolling and shows immediately just how good this band is when the songs are in a longer form. With more room to breathe and experiment the build towards the all-out thrash sections make those segments so much more impactful. Gang vocals a la Anthrax are in abundance here and there’s even time for some melody in the vocals. A great start.
‘Welcome to The Freakshow’ is pure eighties thrash worship with the aggro gang vocals coming to the fore once again. A more straightforward thrash song in composition it hurtles along at great speed and all the while the riffs are well crafted. On these speedier songs there is a definite nod towards bands like Overkill, the superb production helps maintain the clarity so every nook and cranny of the track is shown.
‘Nomophobia’ comes at the halfway point and is all galloping Iron Maiden riffage, a harsher vocal delivery not unlike Chuck Billy from Testament and again those gang vocals, on this song they mesh perfectly with everything else going on. Then comes an ambient break – I kid you not! – and that really shows how far the band are willing to go to show you exactly what they’re capable of. It added so much to the song in terms of mood and build that it’s easily the standout moment of the album.
There was a real dip towards the end of the album though, with the quite frankly horrendous cover of Dire Straits’ ‘Money For Nothing’ and then the oddly placed track ‘The Stain On My Soul Remains’ which sounds like an intro track placed there purely to get you back on board. ‘Shining Perpetuity’ then tries to get things back on track, but it was too little too late by then.
This album, at its core, is everything that’s great about thrash metal; full of speed and aggression and sprinkled with twists and turns that turn good songs into great ones. However there is a diversity and consistency issue, and things start sounding the same and I just couldn’t escape the feeling that I was hearing recycled riffs and tempo changes by the end.