Given how great 2016 was for me personally, my resolution for the New Year, if I was forced to make one, would be to keep doing what I was doing but do even more of it. The more things stay the same, the more things keep coming up
Milhouse Diabolus. With that in mind, 2017 is off to a great start! Case in point: just like 2016, my first review of the year’s subject is Raleigh’s Suppressive Fire. This time around the sun, these thrashers are hitting us with their sophomore record, Nature of War, after a remarkably quick turnaround. Contrary to clichés, Suppressive Fire isn’t slumping into this battle; they’re charging in with greater focus and, most importantly, more riffs.
While the Toxic Holocaust influence still looms large, Suppressive Fire doesn’t come across as a tribute act. Joel Grind’s punchy take on thrash is infused with the extremity of early Kreator and the chugging of Celtic Frost, with the latter finding itself sped up fairly often via being run through the Sodom filter and the former sounding overall less melodic. There are hints of early Metallica here as well, and the blackened thrash of Nocturnal Breed and Aura Noir is still present and accounted for, albeit less prominently than on Bedlam.
Last time around, I was less than enthused when Suppressive Fire tried their hand at mid-tempo songs. Fortunately, as “No Man’s Land” plainly shows, they have, for the most part, found what was missing there. Beginning on something recalling 80s heavy metal, it transitions into an early Warrior-style riff and then combines the two ideas before climaxing in some Frosty thrash with a quality solo over top. Album highlight “Nuclear Dismemberment” careens into straight-up Massacra territory convincingly, has the record’s best two leads, and finishes on the best Toxic Holocaust riff Mr. Grind never wrote. The title track recalls Sodom in a big way with Aaron Schmidt doing his best Onkel Tom impression vocally and Agent Orange looming large in the riffs. The guys are clearly having a ton of fun on this one, and it’s infectious.
Despite my obvious enjoyment of what Suppressive Fire is doing here, there are some flaws that hold Nature of War back from being a great thrash record. “Earthripper” sounds like B-grade Kreator, and while this is fine it’s not noteworthy in any way. “Vesicant” has a puzzling beginning that rides a riff that veers straight into stoner territory before resuming the usual Suppressive Fire attack. Frustratingly, the parts after the intro are all good Sodom-style thrashing and chugging until bland Sabbath rears its head again, and it definitely harms the song. The almost punk-like blast of “Depraved” is energetic but doesn’t really go anywhere, riding a couple of quick and oddly nondescript riffs bolstered by Josh Bleek’s agile drum performance.
With Joel Grind at the production helm again, it’s unsurprising that Nature of War is a good and somewhat raw sounding record. Everything is audible, the drums sound good and live, and vocals are up front but not overpowering. Suppressive Fire has made a better record than their debut, and the highlights here have those on Bedlam handily beat. While Nature of War doesn’t have the unhinged appeal of records like Morbid Saint’s Spectrum of Death, it’s a largely well-written piece of thrash that’s definitely worth hearing and appreciating. The quick turnaround might suggest a rush job, but that doesn’t seem to be the case; Suppressive Fire keeps getting better, and if a song like “Nuclear Dismemberment” is any indication, they have an absolute ripper of an album in them yet.