Thrash has deflowered many a metal virgin over the years, myself included. As such, regardless of the modern state of the thrash metal scene, it’s easy to fall back into cozy nostalgia, despite my belief that the majority of thrash bands are caught in a perpetual loop of attempting to rehash the genre’s past glories and ’80s heyday rather than forging their own path of destruction. 2016 proved a big year for the old dogs to bang out solid albums, however, in reality it was defined by thrashers willing to push boundaries or at the very least inject some fresh blood into tried and true formulas. Vektor’s much lauded thrashterpiece Terminal Redux rightfully dominated conversations and playlists, but beyond that obvious modern masterwork, Xoth’s thrashy gumbo of engaging and playful extremity, Ripper’s raw, Sepultura-inspired thrashing fury and Euphoria’s underrated space age barnstormer Operation: Genesis all punched above their weight and modest profiles. Already 2017 has thrown us back into the prominent rethrash movement, with big guns Havok, Warbringer and Power Trip all ripping out solidly fun retro workouts. Now we have another candidate ready to throw their High Tops into the retro worship ring, courtesy of time-warping Dutch thrashers Distillator and their sophomore album, Summoning the Malicious.
Pulling strands from the much pillaged Bay Area thrash scene of the ’80s, spiked with whiffs of old school Slayer and Destruction, Distillator go about their business with minimum fuss and plenty of throwback thrash attitude and tightly executed chops. Fleet fingered riffing, speedy rhythms, standardized thrash vocals and theatrical, balls-in-vice inflections lay down a solid template of what Distillator are all about on opening rager “Blinded by Chauvinism,” a feisty but ultimately repetitive thrasher with a semi-decent solo. Throughout the album Distillator teeter on the cusp of writing some strong thrash tunes but struggle to climb out of the middle tier of the over-populated rethrash scene. Even by thrash standards there isn’t a hell of a lot of dynamic variety, particularly in regards to the riffing, structural patterns and tempo, while the high pitched shrieks are a tad overused and come across as a little gimmicky. Nevertheless, Summoning the Malicious has its moments and there’s nothing here that’s outright bad, nor is their much to inspire or deeply engage, despite some interesting Middle-Eastern influences and old school charm.
Highlighted by its breakneck speed, impressive guitar-bass interplay and effective Middle-Eastern flavored melodies, the title track is a catchy stand out, while other worthy cuts include the suitably ripping and aggressive “Mechanized Existence,” and sprightly gallop and tasty bass licks of “Algorithmic Citizenship.” Sadly, these stronger efforts are bookended by bland and largely forgettable tunes like “Enter the Void” and “Stature of Liberty.” Overall, Distillator is a tight and energetic unit and the quality musicianship and retro dedication is impressive. But simply, beyond a few solid songs, the occasional inspired riff and slashing solo, the album doesn’t keep a steady enough grip to sustain interest or inspire revisits. Sound-wise, the guitar tone has a sharp, classic feel, the drums hammer away adequately, but the impressive bass could stand to be more punchy. The main issue with the production comes down to the crushed mastering job, which strips away any sort of decent sonic depth, ramming ear fatiguing loudness into your ear drums. The loudness factor is definitely an element that differentiates the production from the classic recordings of the ’80s, before the Loudness War took hold.
Distillator tick all the retro thrash boxes and certainly manage to nail the aesthetics in cultivating an authentic throwback sound. However, replicating the past is just one key component to rethrash success. Quality songwriting that demands repeat listens rather than inspiring listeners to scramble for the genre classics is a tough task and Distllator can’t pull it off well enough to inspire a hearty recommendation. For some, a feisty attack of nostalgia may be all that’s required to get the full engagement out of a rethrash band. Myself, I demand more bang for my thrash buck and Distillator aren’t quite up to scratch when there are stronger retro thrash options and timeless genre classics to draw upon.