Like a bizarre Thrash Metal version of Sesame Street, the latest Warbringer album is brought to you by the letter W. With the titles of all four previous releases beginning with that same specific letter, it’s not altogether unexpected to find album number five, Woe To The Vanquished (Napalm) follows suit.
Musically, however, things are a little different this time. Not a lot – it’s still Warbringer after all – but just enough to continue the explorative indulgences of the last couple of albums. Whereas some felt their previous record, Warbringer IV: Empires Collapse (Century Media) was too far removed from their earlier sound (the distinctly non-traditional cover art didn’t help either), Woe To The Vanquished keeps their current search for progression alive, but also tempers it with a return to more of the band’s earlier, rawer delivery.
Opener ‘Silhouettes’ begins with the sound of wind howling across a desolate landscape followed by a staccato riff backed by militaristic drums. Somewhere in the distance, vocalist John Kevill unleashes a pained cry of anguish and we’re off at high-speed with cut-throat riffs, venomous vocals, and a groove filled middle section.
‘Shellfire’ picks up the speed, and the riff which blasts off at just over the minute mark is likely to sear the skin from your face. ‘Descending Blade’ is another straightforward thrasher, while ‘Spectral Asylum’ is a far more interesting beast. Penultimate track ‘Divinity of Flesh’ begins with an In Flames ‘Behind Space ’99’ style intro before turning into another speed injected groove monster.
Beginning with a verse from Prelude: The Troops by soldier and war poet Siegfried Sassoon, final track ‘When The Guns Fell Silent’ reveals where the band have been headed all this time. Eleven electric minutes of ambitious mid-paced Thrash complete with a restrained, Iron Maiden-esque quiet passage in the middle. Why they didn’t choose this song to be the title track is a mystery. Come on, guys. It even starts with a W!
The production is an improvement; the guitars are clearer, vocalist John Kevill seriously tests his voice, the drums sound deep and clear and by taking what could be seen as a cautious step backwards, Warbringer have actually taken two steps forward and are now firmly back on course.