Why is thrash metal the de facto outlet for raging against the machine nowadays? The genre was always pissed off, but the distillate of what was once a hallowed pastime of metal at large is now brewed exclusively into the complimentary Milwaukee’s Best served at your local jean vest purveyor. Don’t look to Solitary to deviate from that. Featuring $$$, Jesus, a handgun, and some sweet, sweet H, The Diseased Heart of Society’s cover is four-fifths of the way to social commentary Bingo. Not content with a mere page from the Old Timer’s Playbook, the Brits kicked the walking canes right out from underneath Exodus and Testament and made off with their dentures. The villains!
Not that Exodus and Testament are bad bands to crib from; if you’re going to poach, might as well poach from the best. Though this is only their third full-length release, Solitary have been knocking skulls since the mid-90’s. The commitment is there, and fortunately so is the execution. “Trigger Point Atrocity” illustrates the band’s intent to give you the thrash slash fan-fic you’ve always wanted. Battering chug-laden rhythms and ferocious riffs stomp through 3.5 minutes of quality thrash. Weighty but never claustrophobic, TDHoS nails the modern mid-range sound every leftover 80’s outfit guns for nowadays. Richard Sherrington’s croaks mesh the sneering delivery of Steve Souza with the ragged punch of Chuck Billy and Xentrix’s Chris Astley, anchoring Solitary’s aural assault with the only voice that fits. Andy Mellor’s razor blade intro to highlight “Unidentified” shows Solitary can turn up the heat as Sherrington tilts fully toward his huskier side. The result, like “Trigger Point Atrocity,” highlights the band’s ability to play to their strengths. TDHoS does nothing you haven’t heard before, but it does it very well. Keeping track times short, mindset dialed in, and riffs neck-breakingly simple, Solitary’s years of experience pay off in the form of focus and restraint, the album’s greatest attributes.
Conscious of one-noteness hidden in their unflagging tempo, “Architects of Shame” transitions toward modern Kreator, with drummer Roy Miller thumping along with the consistency of a poor man’s Ventor. His participation mirrors that of Sherrington — both dutifully furnish TDHoS with performances that make sense for the music and allow Mellor’s guitar-work shine. However, they could both use a double shot of dynamism, Sherrington in particular. Though never downright bland, his vocals lay all their cards on the table upfront. Aside from “Unidentified” and a surprisingly catchy delivery on the closing “Humanity’s Decline,” he supplies little in the way of development or diversity. Rarely does his performance reach the standards of mic generals like Zetro and Mille Petrozza, commanding presences capable of anchoring their bands’ hulking reinventions. This lack of development plagues the album as a whole, as multiple tracks lack the eye-catching nature necessary to reach the next tier. The end result leaves TDHoS as a quality imitator, but an imitator nonetheless. Every delectable nougat evokes a band that did it first, better. Solitary do not produce a bad experience — in fact, it is often rather enjoyable — but the band will remain capped unless they can make their own way.
Originality aside, Solitary produce an album within striking distance of the recent releases from the big boys of thrash. A latent viciousness reminiscent of not-shitty Machine Head crops up from time to time, particularly on the melodic trills of “Anthem of Regret,” as do momentary glimpses of Dead Head death-fusion and the beefy electricity of recent Onslaught. The variety combines with a crisp 33-minute spin that stays fresh, track after pissed-off track. Mellor carries the album, burning bullshit riffs in effigy as he pounds out enjoyably basic headbangers. Utilizing his expertise from his time with the likes of Amorphis, Paradise Lost, and Napalm Death, Simon Efemey pinpoints the sound Solitary need to pull TDHoS off. Familiar, enveloping, and well-endowed, it’s hard to find any major faults in the mix.
In thrash, more than any other genre, the potential for failure is far outweighed by the threat of continued anonymity. Topping The Diseased Heart of Society may need a best-case scenario, requiring a lot of circumstances to break its way to succeeding. The sum of Solitary’s parts is solid, but it takes more than that to produce a true kingmaker. Only time will tell if Solitary can fight into the sunlight or if obscurity will not yet relinquish its grasp, condemning the Brits to forever wallow in the shade of household names.