Sometimes I feel like a wine critic. Not because I spit booze into a bucket like a drunken ibex and pretend it’s a real job when I write about it, but because I’m describing what I hear and then telling you good folks about how my “palate” reacts to it. Although it would be substantially easier to just sniff, taste or write “a bold 90s flavour, Good/5.0” and call it a day, this metal gig actually lets me reference hamburgers, beer, and philosophy at a frankly ludicrous frequency so I can confidently say I made the right choice. With that in mind I’ve taken many sips from the boxed Merlot of Dutch thrashcore merchants Collision’s fifth full-length Satanic Surgery, and much like a baffled wine critic (Diabolus in Vino?) I had one Hell of a time figuring out why it tasted funny.
Thrashcore is a scintillating combination of the base genres of grindcore, hardcore, and thrash. Immediately noticeable in Collision is the aroma of Wehrmacht and D.R.I. both pre- and post-Crossover. Also detectable in the flavour is Slayer’s punk-thrash of Undisputed Attitude (vintage 1996), which adds a whiff of metallic heft [And Jägermeister. – Steel Druhm]. Nuances of pizza via Municipal Waste strike the palate as well, as does a paradoxically refreshing flavor of cheap beer mixed with a hint of Repulsion. The recommended serving temperature is loud. Satanic Surgery (vintage 2016) aims to transmit the quality of fun into its final product.
And what fun “Piece of Shit from the Tar Pit” is. Boasting the catchiest refrain on Satanic Surgery by a mile, it brings the punk-thrash together with some riffs reminiscent of D.R.I.’s heavier stuff on Crossover. “Blood Soaked Graveyard” effectively brings a bit of less punky Slayer to the party in some of its riffs. Interestingly, it’s the one song where the lyrics adopt Slayer’s atrocity reporting style, and that it throws in some chugging that Kerry King probably would’ve considered for Divine Intervention makes an odd sort of sense and works in the band’s favour. There’s a weird yet appealing groove in “Necromantic Love Affair” that reminds me of Agorapocalypse, and it becomes one of the finest cuts here because of that. Also commendable is Collision’s refusal to hit the three minute mark on a single song in an effort to not overstay their welcome.
Satanic Surgery doesn’t last long but it doesn’t succeed in the memorability department, so the twenty-six minutes here go by far slower than they should. A lot of the riffs sound like thrashcore, but don’t have the genre’s trademark intensity. “Touch Me Jesus” is one of the many examples of this, and it left me completely bored with its fast yet wholly unremarkable material. The title track has a good drum performance, but the riffing can’t decide whether it wants to be heavy or punkish so takes the third way, failing at both. There’s a weird malaise about this whole enterprise, and I can only think that it’s due to the lyrical focus. That’s a weird claim, so let me explain. Wehrmacht had songs about getting drunk on cheap beer and fun teenager stuff like that. Many other hard/thrash/grindcore bands channeled their youthful energy to reactionary politics or just went all-in on the straight edge thing. Collision doesn’t really write about anything beyond the banal: their brand of tryhard and ultimately inoffensive anti-Christian stuff became passé everywhere except Poland after the second Deicide record, and none of their assaults on good taste are in the same ballpark as Seth Putnam in humour or provocative genius. This lack of purpose and drive seems to have translated over to the riffs and songs in general. If I were to try to pick out further song-specific specific flaws, I’d have to go back through Satanic Surgery and arbitrarily point them out in the most banal and ad hoc way possible. There’s just not a lot worth writing home about with either praise or derision.
When a record is outright terrible, writing about it is simple because it’s damning flaws are obvious. I cannot in good faith call Satanic Surgery terrible. Collision even picked a production job that makes the whole shebang sound professional, clear, not at all over-produced, and even gives the bass a whole lotta love in the mix. Maybe I’m missing something, but this just sounds like a competent but unexciting representation of the older stuff; if Plato were alive today, his disdain for representational artists could be directed at this record. When he was very busy with gleefully misreading Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre wrote that existence precedes essence, and such is the case here. Satanic Surgery certainly exists as thrashcore, but lacks its essence: that energetic, youthful, and exciting spark along with catchy tunes to house it. Sartre apologists will be pleased, but I’m not.