With the summer truly upon us here in the Americas, what better way to celebrate sun, fun, beers and beach balls than some rehashed, rethrash from Germany? Dust Bolt is another in the endless wave of rethrash that’s been slowly eroding the shores of our collective tolerance since the early days of the millennium, some of it has been good and most merely passable. Dust Bolt‘s 2014 Awaken the Riot was one of the better recent platters of thrash n’ bash and I enjoyed their fusion of vintage Kreator and Sepultura with punky rage and youthful energy. They did absolutely nothing new but what they did was with such enthusiasm, they won over even a jaded first wave thrash vet like myself. I hoped they could keep the good times rolling with Mass Confusion, but like all successful parties, eventually you run out of beer and good cheer. The keg isn’t completely kicked here, but it’s coming out foamy, and you know what that portends….
In the band photo below you’ll notice the rocking of a Suicidal Tendencies hat. That’s prophetic, as Mass Confusion sees Dust Bolt punking up their style considerably. The hardcore element was there before but served merely as an accent to traditional thrash fare. Now it’s much more a focus and the songs often feel rowdy and goofy rather than furious and pissed off. At times this makes them sound more metalcore-ish than one would expect, and that’s rarely a good thing.
Things open with a short sharp dose of thrash on “Sick X Brain” and it’s effective and furious but quickly jumps into a big breakdown, almost as if to alert listeners what looms ahead. The title track features their tried-and-true mixture of German and Bay area thrash which is welcome, but sadly, the song itself is fairly generic and doesn’t stick. “Allergy” mixes left over Exodus riffs with a punk attitude and while it’s thrashy and energetic with some interesting riff ideas, it feels flat and the shouted vocals and gang-shouts are not particularly appealing.
It isn’t until the album’s halfway point that a song really jumps out at you, and oddly enough it’s the weirdly emo power-ballad, “Exit.” Kicking off with gentle acoustic strumming and angst-ridden vocals it’s such a stark departure from the band’s typical work product it can’t help but grab you. It gets heavier along the way, adopting an oddly epic feel along with vocals right off a Bush album. It’s definitely an odd duck with some core-leanings, but it works and ends up and album standout. “Empty Faces” also manages to impress with a simplistic but thrashy aproach that isn’t quite as interesting as the band’s earlier days but has enough quality riffing to keep one banging along.
The rest of the album is either decent but uninspired thrash with pirated Slayer riffs (“Turned to Grey,” “Blind to Art”) or questionable ditties like “Taking Your Last Breath” which starts off sounding like a bad Body Count song (as to differentiate it from the average Body Count songs). At 47 minutes Mass Confusion doesn’t feel too long so much as it feels generic, uneventful and lacking in intensity.
We all know thrash lives, dies and kills posers based on the quality of the riffs, and though there are some enjoyable ones scattered across the album, many of them are of the chugga-wugga variety and do little to pique the ear. They do rob the Big Vault of Slayer Riffs more than last time, but the results are not particularly exciting. The same goes for their depredations at the Waffle House of Exodus and the Beer Garden of Kreator. Making matters worse, Lenny B’s vocals are much less intense and over-the-top this time. Rather than a rough thrash rasp, he’s more based around a simple shout and it doesn’t lend much punch to the mix aside from the infrequent scream. It actually gets annoying on several tracks and I kept wishing for more aggression.
As an admirer of the earlier works of the Dust Bolt catalog, it pains me to see them become just another rethrasher with one High Top in the past and one in modern metal. Mass Confusion isn’t the worst thrash you’ll hear this year, far from it, but there isn’t a helluva lot to bring you on board and keep you there either. Looks like this summer’s speed will be supplied by old guard thugs like Anthrax and Death Angel while the young and the restless get their shit together for another wave. Cowabunga.