2014 is here and it’s time for the Metal Show to begin anew! And what better way to raise the curtain on the sixth year of AMG than with… retread thrash! Yes, yes, you’ve all had your fill of thrash, re-thrash, retro-thrash and frash, but as long as bands keep spitting this stuff out, we in the reviewing biz have a duty to review it… and it’s a BIG duty!
Today’s used tire is Ravenous Plague by the ever reliable and unchanging Dutch thrashers Legion of the Damned. Unlike many of their peers, LoTD managed to keep their thrash fairly entertaining over a lengthy career without tweaking the age old formulas, adding outside influences or “shaking things up.” Instead, they cull and crib ideas from Slayer, modern Exodus and the best of Germanic thrash, then go about their speedy endeavors with a single-minded ferocity and hope the pieces fall into place. More often than not, they do just that and you get nasty, heavy thrash that borders on death metal. Ravenous Plague does nothing to change their trajectory and it’s a virtual carbon copy of 2011s Descent Into Chaos, save for slightly bigger influence from wildly under-appreciated 80’s thrashers Deathrow. If you were looking for something original, you best leave the hall. This is thrash after all, craptastic cover art included at no extra charge.
If you heard any of the older LoTD material, you know what to expect on tracks like opener “Howling for Armageddon,” i.e. big, bruising riffery, frenetic soloing and the semi-death barks of Maurice Swinkels. So familiar is the music, it will easily remind many of their classic tune (in relative terms), “Werewolf Corpse.” The same issue plagues “Mountain Wolves Under a Crescent Moon,” but to a lesser extent, and it’s rescued by some leads that sound like vintage Mortal Sin. While both songs are enjoyable, the self-plagiarization is a bit troubling. Elsewhere, “Black Baron” borrows the twitchy, jittery riff style made famous by Deathrow and it reminds me a lot of “Slaughtered” from their 1986 debut. Similarity aside, it’s a satisfying thrash tune with ample balls and pissed off energy.
Things hit a high point with “Doom Priest,” which benefits from a huge “Seasons in the Abyss” vibe and adds various Morbid Angel riff ideas for good measure (and as a bonus, the video has more dramatic facial expressions than a Mexican telenovela). Also well done is “Morbid Death” with it’s Release From Agony era Destruction style, and “Armalite Assassin,” which sports fluid, vaguely blackened riff patterns.
Less potent is the slower, generic grind of “Summon All Hate” and the somewhat dull rumble of “Bury Me in a Nameless Grave.” No song is outright bad, but the album is definitely front loaded with better material. It also feels a tad overlong at 45 minutes, which is the outer limits of my thrash tolerance these days.
As good as some of the riffing is by new gunslinger Twan van Geel, it often feels too close to what LoTD has done in the past. Granted, there’s only so much a modern day thrasher can do to create fresh sounding riffs, but Toxic Holocaust keeps doing it, so it can be done. Another issue is the lack of memorable vocal hooks and patterns. While Swinkel always had a basic, one-note delivery, he usually managed to do little things to make his vocals stand out and stick in the head. That happens less here, and while he still sounds mean as junkyard dog on meth, he only shines on a few cuts like “Doom Priest” and “Morbid Death.”
Our new Year of the Lord starts with more thrash, and thrash is as thrash does, for better or worse, always. I’ll be the first to tell you though, it can be a lot worse than this. Ravenous Plague is a decently entertaining, but ultimately average outing by a band I usually enjoy more heartily. Did you expect something truly new in this new year? If you did, humbug and fiddlesticks to you!