My tolerance for re-thrash is about as low as my stores of thrash intro paragraphs. If you ever wanted to hear nineteen-eighty-pick-a-year aped by some little shits who never lived through Cliff Burton-‘tallica, 2017 delivered in spades. Barcelona’s young bucks No Amnesty should have been getting their braces off at 15, not hitting the stage. Their 2013 freshman EP A New Order for Attack beat their balls to the drop. Now older, wiser, and still ineligible for a beer in the US, the world is their öyster. Though it could use a little polish, debut album Psychopathy is the pearl.
For better or worse, retro thrash lives and dies by how comfortable it makes the listener. Many modern luminaries expand the familiar with personal flair and aplomb, but obvious connections persist between acts like Power Trip and Metallica or Havok and Megadeth. No Amnesty is no different. “NOTLD” slips on like a well-worn slipper, gliding between galloping rhythms, chunky neck-breakers, and furious solos with the ease you would expect from a bunch of crusty farts trying to reclaim the glory of the 80’s, not some young whipper snappers on their first try. Though their name may suggest a stronger Havok influence, Psychopathy services the classics. “Among the Blind” and “Evil Priest” choose Overkill as their muse, while the obligatory Exodus and Testament name-drops come assembled out of the box. Fortunately, the songs are deceptively effective, embodying the quintessential thrash spirit of head-banging first, questions later.
No Amnesty stretch homage to its limits with the quizzically-titled “Fight Below the Fire,” because playground rules apparently prohibit jumping in and/or fighting with fire. However, the riff is a mighty one and makes for one of the few instances where it’s not completely obvious what No Amnesty are going for. If there’s a drawback to the album, it is the Spaniards’ tendency to make plain their idolization of their influences. From the lack of subtlety in song titles like 1“Snake Eyes” and “Toxic World”2 to the near-constant reminder that most elements are only original in arrangement and presentation, not in conception, it makes Psychopathy tough to judge. At its core, the thrash is fun and light from top to bottom, with songs like “Eternal Night” and “The Prophecy” slowing down for some Metallica mid-tempo done right. However, instances like the still-good “Snake Eyes” cut too close to mimicry but for its soulful interlude, suffering from a sense that it’s a mere rearrangement of classic riffs rather than anything new. “Fight Below the Fire” itself falls prey to a lack of development, as No Amnesty let that mighty riff stagnate thanks to overuse.
Despite this, Psychopathy remains engaging throughout. When each spin ends, it seems as if it could tack on another track or two, regardless of run time. Much of this relies on the axework of Jonny and Xavi, who demonstrate acute sensitivity to the ways of the riff. Fast or slow, thick or razor-thin, the duo delivers. Yet for all of their effort, Psychopathy depends heavily on the vocals of elder statesman Albert (Fuck Off, Setge). His rasps draw heavily on Bobby Blitz’s sneering shrills and excess charisma, but his abilities include a range of influences that keep his performance from growing stale. His heavy falsetto mitigates the effect of his accent, though it makes his performance an acquired taste. In the early-going, his histrionics remind me of an even more over-the-top Nils Patrik Johanssen, but by finishers “Toxic World” and “Time to Bleed,” he sounds as natural as the delightful double bass rolls. If anything, No Amnesty should expand his performance. For Psychopathy to meet the same standards as The Years of Decay or Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?, an infusion of romping choruses and straight-talk lyrics would be a good place to start.
For a debut album, Psychopathy already sounds remarkably well-rounded and fully-formed. Accounting for the ages of its participants, that should be more than enough to put No Amnesty on many a watch list. This album isn’t perfect, leaving room to grow in the catchiness and composition department. However, Psychopathy easily beats out a lot of the thrash I’ve sat through this year. That, if only that, makes it worthy of recommendation.