I’m a good bit younger than several of my AMG colleagues (who will go unnamed to keep hurt feelings among our more sensitive writers to a minimum). While many of them were lucky enough to experience thrash metal in its heyday, I found myself getting into the genre at the height of the re-thrash movement, circa 2008. One of my most vivid memories from that time was reading through an extensive “thank you” section in the booklet of Warbringer‘s War Without End. The band gave shout outs to more thrash metal bands than I had ever thought could exist; how was I supposed to become fully acquainted with the genre? To this day the number of 80’s thrash bands I have yet to discover still boggles my mind, and New Jersey’s Blood Feast is yet another in a seemingly endless stream of resurrected relics that reaffirms I’ll never reach the bottom of the well o’ denim ‘n bullet belts. The Future State of Wicked is their first record in twenty eight years, and while it’s a mostly solid record, the long wait spawned a few inescapable hang-ups.
The most immediately appealing aspect of TFSoW is the utter lack of fucking around Blood Feast engages in. Album opener “INRI” sees the band working at full force from moment one, with high velocity tom rolls backed by the hellacious howling of new frontman Chris Natalini (Seeds of Perdition). The music itself is fairly stripped down even in the scope of a genre that’s not exactly associated with nuanced and forward-thinking music, but there’s something about this uncompromisingly no-frills approach that’s somewhat refreshing. I can really appreciate an album that operates full throttle from the first second to the last, and the record’s ceaseless tremolo riffs, mostly (and surprisingly) of the non-palm muted variety, ensure that it barrels along like a runaway train. In terms of sheer adrenaline, Blood Feast is undeniably proficient.
Though satisfyingly ferocious, The Future State of Wicked could have used some serious attention in the editing stage of production. While a handful of tracks clock in at or under the three-minute mark (“INRI,” “Brethren”), many of them stretch past five minutes without containing nearly enough material to justify their length. “The Underling” and “Who Prays For the Devil” are some of the worst offenders, and while they’re not bad songs and the riffs are as effective as anywhere else on the record, they don’t carry enough ideas to merit their bloated lengths, sometimes causing my mind to wander away from the music until the end of the track in question. At a total of forty-three minutes, TFSoW maintains proper LP length, but the longer songs tend to drag so much that it feels considerably longer. It could have been a more efficient and enjoyable record if more time had been spent pruning the compositions in the writing stage.
While I’m disappointed by Blood Feast‘s apparent lack of editing prowess, I’m of two minds about the voice that carries this album along. Vocalist Chris Natalini is, make no mistake, one crazy fucker. His relentless screams recall a more coherent Varg Vikernes circa 1992, and he sounds completely unique in the thrash genre. That being said, his vocals are raised to ear-splitting levels in the mix, and his performance offers no variation, leading to mild annoyance and a serious case of ear ringing by AFSoW‘s conclusion. Really, everything is mixed too loud here (except the bass, of course), and I’m disappointed that a record that’s as earnest of a throwback as this one doesn’t have the production to match. The tones are certainly good, though; the guitars possess a more natural, old-school distortion as opposed to the razor precision found on most modern thrash records, and the drums have a charming garage quality that effectively suits the album’s stripped-down aesthetic.
I don’t feel like The Future State of Wicked is a record that could’ve been something much greater when I view it through a “what if” filter, but I do think that it’s an album that could have been an efficient nostalgic throwback if more attention had been put into mixing and editing. There’s certainly a lot to like here; Blood Feast has an unabashedly good time with their material, and the riffs are consistently good. Yet its flaws drag it down from “good” to “decent” status, a gap which feels surprisingly large considering it could have been so easily surmounted with a little tweaking.
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Hells Headbangers Records
Websites: bloodfeastlegions.com | facebook.com/bloodfeast | blood-feast.bandcamp.com
Releases Worldwide: April 14th, 2017