Wednesday, June 29, 2016

National Suicide – Anotheround

Amongst the wild thrash explosion a few years ago, it was easy for bands to get lost. Italy’s National Suicide never quite had that problem, as their vocalist was often lauded for his ability to sound like Blitz. Admittedly, this was one band I never had a chance to get around to back then, but after 7 long years, they’ve popped up again with another record, appropriately titled “Anotheround”. And while popular interest in thrash may have died out again in recent years, National Suicide wouldn’t make you think that. The band sounds inspired on this release, offering up 9 tracks of high-speed, aggressive thrash.

To set the record straight on their vocalist, he’s not quite a Blitz clone. That is definitely the most prevalent influence, but National Suicide’s singer is a bit shriller and higher-pitched (which one wouldn’t even think is possible!), but he also has some Zetro in his sound. The best way to describe his voice is that it has character, something which a lot of modern thrash singers lack. Even if there are some similarities to other singers, you will still know a National Suicide song the second you hear it, largely because of his voice.

There is another defining factor to this record, however. The guitar playing is simply on another level. Both of the band’s shredders consistently offer up mind-bending solos that are incredibly virtuosic. Many of these shred sessions are done in harmony, making them all the more potent. Whether tapping, or sweeping, or whatever other impressive technique you can imagine, National Suicide’s shredders do it all, and often with unique patterns. The real value of this soloing is the fact that it always amps up the energy level in the song. Even if the band was firing off some mid-paced riffs in a song, as soon as a solo hits, things immediately get more interesting (“Scene of the Crime” having a good example of this effect).

Even more uncharacteristic of this style is the fact that National Suicide has mastered the ins and outs of songwriting. “I Refuse to Cry”, for example, has an actual chorus that shows the band holding onto huge power chords, which ring out as the singer belts out some catchy melodies. It sounds like such a ridiculous thing to latch onto, but there aren’t a lot of thrash bands doing this kind of thing these days. This isn’t the only instance of memorable songwriting either. The shrill cries of the title track, “Anotheround”, will remain in your head long after this record stops spinning. “Nobody’s Coming” manages to be another highlight largely because of the unique vocal lines. Every lyric on this song is delivered with a punkish sneer and has so much attitude that it brings back classic songs like Overkill’s “I Hate”, even if the sound itself is quite different. 

For all of the reasons noted above, National Suicide stands above most of the current thrash crowd. It’s easy to dismiss them as a simple Overkill clone, but one listen to “Anotheround” will quickly change your mind. The band still has their own style and approach, they just take a lot of influence from one particular band. It’s no different from the fact that most modern thrash records worship Slayer, Exodus, and Kreator, other than that National Suicide is able to move beyond simply cloning another band.

Be sure to check out and like National Suicide on Facebook!

"I Refuse To Cry"
"Nobody's Coming"

Final Rating
4.4/5 or 88%. 

Written by Scott

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Sunburst – Fragments of Creation

Fragments of Creation” is the first album for the Greek progressive power metal act Sunburst. Their sound combines modern progressive elements with a more traditional, catchy power metal sound, recalling bands like Kamelot, and at other times, Nevermore. This description is typically enough to scare me off, but Sunburst is much better than the aforementioned bands. While there are still numerous instances of 7-string chugging riffs, Sunburst manages to overcome this by writing diverse, memorable songs with dazzling guitar work.

There is no doubt that the star of this record is lead guitarist Gus Drax (apparently if you are from Greece and your first name is Gus, you need to be a god at guitar, as his Firewind countryman is also a major shredder). His imprint is all over this record, with every single track having some of the most impressive soloing I’ve ever heard. There are some songs, like “Symbol of Life” and “Beyond the Darkest Sun”, where the band lets him loose as often as possible, and he provides the most stunning guitar work of the entire record. The former song opens with an insane tapping pattern (Gus has a playthrough video up on YouTube that is well worth watching!) that will make you want to quit playing guitar because it’s so good. The other songs do have a lot of lead playing as well, but it is these tracks where that seems to be the focus.

The other major point of note on this release is the vocal work of Vasilis Georgiou. He would be a perfect fit for Kamelot, and while I don’t particularly enjoy either of the main singers of that band, his performance on “Fragments of Creation” is effortless. He has a clear, soothing voice that works in great contrast to the heavier guitars, resulting in a laid-back, introspective sound. This proves even more effective on the ballad, "Lullaby". There are occasional moments of greater aggression (particularly when the band utilizes harsh vocals in the last two tracks), but in general, the singing on this album tends to be a bit more restrained. 

When it comes down to it, however, you can have as good of a guitarist and singer as you want, and it means nothing if the songs are bad. This is why, much to the dismay of many, Kamelot bores me to tears, yet Sunburst has created an album that will remain in rotation for a long time. Tracks like “Dementia” and “Break The Core” are eternally catchy. It’s clear that the band has put a lot of time into crafting these songs, and ensuring that there are plenty of hooks, alongside excellent guitar work. There isn’t too much to be said for the bass playing and drumming on this album; it is competent and gets the job done. This style doesn’t leave a lot of room for the rhythm section to shine, but the rest of the band makes up for it. Overall, “Fragments of Creation” is a major success for the progressive power metal subgenre. Most bands in this style are a struggle for me, but Sunburst has executed everything so well on this record that it’s a must listen!   

Be sure to check out and like Sunburst on Facebook!

"Symbol of Life"
"Break The Core"

Final Rating
4.4/5 or 88%. 

Written by Scott