Speed metal wasn’t around long as a separate genre before it got absorbed into the more popular thrash bubble following the Bay Area explosion. Over the years the differences between the styles blurred, and while they’re slight, speed metal was always closer to classic metal in attitude with a greater emphasis on memorability and hooks. And that’s where Denmark’s Encyrcle come in. Their self-titled debut is a wild and reckless ode to speed metal’s glory days mixed with just enough thrash and black metal to create a volatile cocktail of explosive material. This thing is a veritable smokehouse of wicked and furious riffs, wild vocals and so much metal attitude, you’ll look like an extra from Mad Max: Fury Road by the time the album is finished. Veterans of the original speed wave will hear traces of Savage Grace, Artillery, Deathrow and Cyclone as the songs burn across your brainpan like General Sherman through Georgia. And it quickly becomes clear that Encyrcle has staked a righteous claim to be the new defender of metal’s retro glory, despite foolishly opting for a sphere on the cover instead of a shirtless barbarian with sword in hand. Kids today….
After a mood setting intro, “To the End” blasts off with a ridiculously infectious, lightning fast lead riff as frontman N Hydra provides forceful vocals punctuated with air-raid siren screams. It’s like 1985 all over again as the song takes me back to those wonderful crossover albums like Cyclone‘s Brutal Destruction where speed and thrash worked in tandem to beat your ass. The goods keep coming on “Evoke the Night” and its NWoBHM flavor and wickedly old school attitude and energy. “Bloodbasker” is all denim and leather with speed aplenty and macho “call and response” vocals, and “Dizzy Me Deadly” sounds like a loving tribute to all the second tier Germanic thrash bands of the 80s as it enthusiastically goes over-the-top with screams of “666.”
The album centerpiece is the eight-minute marathon of “Black Dust,” and while it’s a bit long in the tooth, the band lets it all hang out and there’s quite the nifty selection of styles, riffs and moods to sort through in what is a very solid old school brawler. The riffing is particular sharp and tasty here and I love the way the band uses old style speed alongside blast beats and blackened riffing.
Are there problems? Sure, but mostly in the pacing and track order arena. The band is great at creating a raucous, go-for-the-throat vibe, but they sometimes do their damnedest to derail the money train after it gets on track. Besides the intro, they drop two additional instrumentals into the mix, with “Serpent’s Dream” being a weird piano piece that becomes a kind of neo-classical thrash that would fit on any Castlevania soundtrack. It’s interesting and well-executed, but it feels like it’s building toward something huge, only to lead into “Deathlust,” which itself has a long, drawn out (and repetitious) mid-tempo intro. This one-two non-punch leaves the listener doodling his noodle for roughly five minutes before the fireworks begin anew and it’s a huge momentum kill.
This platter truly lives and dies by the Almighty Riff, and S Rose and S Klem really impress as riff-smiths. There are a lot of killer leads and harmonies spanning different eras and styles, but they all gel and play nicely together. The solos are also righteous, and mostly of the excessive, “metal as fook” variety, making the album an air guitarist’s wet dream. N Hydra compliments the furious riffery with a throwback performance sometimes reminding me of Flemming Ronsdorf (Artillery) mixed with Deathrow‘s Milo. He can sing in a powerful mid-range and scream like a stuck banshee and his delivery is always pure, unadulterated metal. The whole band sounds tight and polished, but the songs feel loose and rowdy, which works amazingly well.
Encyrcle isn’t a band trying to make a profound statement. They rock hard, fast and mean and drag you along with them. This is one of the happier surprises of the year and a whole lot of high-speed fun. Buckle up, buttercup, and prepare to be thrashed back to the 80s…and beyond!