Just weeks into 2014 and I’ve fallen off the rethrash wagon for a second time. That’s because long-suffering Greek thrashers Suicidal Angels are back with a fifth album full of music striving to recreate the second wave of Bay Area thrash. Naturally, that means heaps of Exodus, Slayer and Vio-Lence worship and where you stand on that is a wholly personal issue. While I only became aware of these chaps on their past few albums, I’ve never been totally sold on their brand of rethrash. It’s always reasonably enjoyable, competently performed, meat-and-potatoes speed, but there was always a sense of “been there, done that, got punched by the bouncer” about it that left me on the sidelines. Divide and Conquer doesn’t differ much from 2012s Bloodbath and as with that opus, it offers no surprises whatsoever, but they’re trying REALLY hard to bring you the speedy, dated hits from yesteryear, just as you remember them. As with their past material, you get a mixed bag of skulls, some tasty, some a bit dull. They do however get full points for making the album sound exactly like something you could have found in your local record shop circa 1988. If that’s your jam, then here’s another nostalgia-drenched soundtrack from the days of wine and (killing) posers. If not…whateves.
As I break down the album, I hope you’ll all forgive me for playing Spot That Influence! “Marching Through Blood” is a decent enough opener with a pissed off, aggressive energy and a bunch of ideas recycled from Exodus during their Fabulous Disaster era and Destruction‘s Release From Agony. “Seeds of Evil” features more Exodus aping, but it hits all the right notes and ends up an enjoyable thrash tune with simple, but tasty riffery. Better still is the title track, which is loaded with furious, in-your-face riffs, wild solos and a good timey swing that brings to mind the better material from Havok.
Other high points include the lengthy “Control the Twisted Mind” which classes up the joint with light symphonics while delivering enough snappy riffs to satiate any retro thrash maven. “In the Grave” reminds me of Vio-Lence, for whom I’ve always had a soft spot in my metal heart, and “Pit of Snakes” sounds like Seasons in the Abyss era Slayer and they even drop the whammy dives like Kerry and Jeff did back in the good old days. Also quite engaging is the eight-minute-plus “White Wizard” (relax Happy Metal Guy, not THAT White Wizzard), which piles on uber-basic, but pumping riffs that keep the noggin noddin.
Less memorable are tunes like “Terror is My Scream,” which wins the coveted ESL Fail Award for January, and “Kneel to the Gun” (ESL Fail Runner Up), though the riffing on the latter invokes enough vintage Death Angel to elicit smiles from the old and pre-thrashed.
Battery mates Chris Tsitsis and Nick Melissourgos are adept at churning out thrash riffs that sound carbon dated, but not too recycled (it’s a fine, fine line) and their punchy, choppy riffing is fun in the same way the Wargasm material once was. They also crank some pretty wild solos of the true metal variety and there’s enough whammy bar fondling and groping to make Rick Rozz sit up and take notice. Vocally, I’m not a huge fan of Nick’s simple thrash bark, but it’s standard issue and these guys are nothing if not slaves to the standards.
Sound-wise, this doesn’t feel as raw and heavy as their older stuff and the guitar-tone isn’t super abrasive or savage. However, it doesn’t fall into the “modern thrash production” trap, so I suppose it’s a wash. still, a bigger, meaner guitar sound would have helped sell these songs muchly.
Hey, it’s retro thrash we’re talking about here, and as that goes, this is slightly above-average and ready for public consumption. If you need more re-thrash, buy it… with your money.