As noted in our brief thrashnalysis a few months ago, Peak Rethrash occurred in 2006 (defining Peak Rethrash as the year the largest number of new thrash bands formed). This makes Deathblow relative latecomers, forming initially as Deathblo in 2008 before buying a dictionary in 2012. They self-released their debut Prognosis Negative only last year, but have already found the time to cobble together five more tracks into a new EP: The Other Side of Darkness. Prognosis Negative pulled all the right moves – raw, fast, and Vio-Lent, but with a hint of melodic sensibility and a strong early death metal influence that made it a little more interesting than your average rethrash, though probably not enough to warrant repeated listening.
The Other Side of Darkness serves up more of the same, which I suppose is to be expected given the short time between the two releases. Deathblow take their cues from the heavier end of the US’s 80s output – Dark Angel, Morbid Saint, Sadus – and add flourishes of Megadeth inspired melody. They’re also quite strongly indebted to Death, with second track “Means to an End” in particular sounding rather like Testament reworking Spiritual Healing. The songs themselves are well structured, with fast and frantic thrashing offset by mid-paced headbanging sections, and while many of the riffs feel familiar they’re executed with real conviction. A few tracks could perhaps be trimmed a little, but in general Deathblow are pretty good at judging a song’s natural end point and the whole EP lasts a tight twenty two minutes.
They also turn in excellent performances. The drumming in particular is fantastic, while vocalist Holger is bang on, spitting his lyrics with youthful rage. It’s not too perfect though; moments of very minor sloppiness in the guitars give the EP a sense of danger that’s absent in many modern thrash records. Unfortunately this is offset by the production, which is compressed to buggery. The artificial guitar sound is already fuzzy, and becomes an impenetrable mush when the arrangements get busy. The bass is swallowed up into the fuzz, partly because of the mix, but also because it largely follows the guitar lines. There’s nothing wrong with this as such, but so many of the great 80s thrash and proto-death metal bands featured prominent, complex bass playing, and I really miss that here.
As you’ve presumably picked up by now (you’re a perceptive bunch) I just can’t get that excited about this release. Enthusiasm and attitude can only get you so far in a genre that was heavily over-saturated years ago, and despite the fine songwriting and well-integrated proto-death metal influences, Deathblow haven’t done enough to convince me they’re worth paying attention to over their hundreds of contemporaries. I’m in agreement with Mr. Fisting’s comments on rethrash from a couple of years ago: do something “mind blowingly awesome and/or … original” (see Vektor) otherwise you’re getting a low score. While Deathblow are beyond many of their contemporaries in terms of performance and songwriting, they are ultimately a fairly generic thrash group that I’m unlikely to remember a couple of weeks from now. This EP hints that they may have it in them to create a unique identity; let’s hope they can develop it in time for their next full-length.