In a time when thrash feels increasingly tired and done-to-death, I was happily surprised by Hatriot‘s 2013 debut, Heroes of Origin. Helmed by semi-legendary thrash vocalist Steve “Zetro” Souza (ex-early Testament, ex-Exodus), the band strip mined the riff vaults of classic Exodus and spewed out a vicious, angry disc of poser killing speed with an enormous 80s feel and only the slightest of nods to the past 20 years in musical advancement. It had a classic “fuck you if you don’t like it” attitude and felt like a crusty old wardog returning to show the youngins how it’s done. Barely a year later and they’re back with the follow up, Dawn of the New Centurion and it’s more of the same speed, anger and Exodus theft. But, is it as refreshing and fun? Well, no. It’s still good, but in Exodus speak; if Heroes of Origin was their Fabulous Disaster, this is their Impact is Imminent. What’s that? You don’t speak Exodus? Well then read on.
There are some real ragers here, just as on the debut. Opener “Cold Dead Hands” is a vicious assault that channels more pure thrash than most retro thrashers can muster and Zetro sounds positively savage as he rants against or for gun rights (I can’t quite tell which) over slashing riffs. “Your Worst Enemy” sounds like a pissed off hybrid of Exodus and David Wayne era Metal Church and it’s sure to please the need for speed set. Also rather nasty and speedy are “Silence in the House of the Lord” and “World Funeral,” both could have appeared on the debut and fit right in (though I’m not sold on the chanty chorus of the former).
Particularly impressive is the lengthy “The Fear Within” which starts off with the album’s best riffing, which takes the form of classy, traditional, nearly NWoBHM leads before finally giving way to thrash insanity with highly syncopated and enjoyable vocal patterns. Less awesome, but still decent are cuts like “Honor in the Rise and Fall” (fairly generic with annoying gang-shouts offset by a plethora of wild solos) and the title track, which is so Exodus in riff and structure, it should violate some sort of trademark law.
Then there are the duds, which Heroes of Origin managed to avoid. “Superkillafragsadisticactsaresoatrocious” is perhaps the lamest song title ever attempted and the fact they tried to thrash up a song from Mary Poppins may be the funniest, most ridiculous thing I’ve heard in a good long time. It’s fantastically dumb and silly and it’s essentially the album’s “Toxic Waltz” and even borrows the same riffing style and tempo from that ancient chesnut. But I knew Mr. Waltz, and this sir is NO “Toxic Waltz.” It kills the album’s intensity, but I give them points for chanting “free Pussy Riot” as the song winds down (for whatever reason). Also underwhelming is album closer “Consolation for the Insane,” which is fast and furious, but feels entirely too generic and flat, even though Zetro sounds greatly riled up throughout.
As on the debut, Zetro sounds born again in a madhouse. Toward the end of his run with Exodus, I thought he sounded dragged out and bored, but those days are no more and here he sounds rabid and totally unhinged. Since this is old school thrash, those vocals really need to be backed up by big, meaty riffs and for the mos part, they are. New axe slinger Justin Cole steps in for Miquel Esparza and along with the returning Kosta V, they throw down their fair share of bruising thrash riffs from a bygone era (of Exodus). I think the debut had more quality riffs overall and the ones here are more susceptible to feeling rehashed and generic, but they partially offset that with way more ripping solos that really let loose with satisfyingly frenzied noodling.
I was looking forward to this and though it’s a bit of a letdown, it’s still an enjoyable slice of vintage 80s thrash brought to you by a man who knows the territory better than most. I’m happy Zetro and his unmerry crew are making a go of this project and as long as they keep thrashing like its 1986, I’ll keep checking them out. I don’t always listen to mid-period Exodus, but when I do, it’s frequently Hatriot.