Vindicator // United We Fall
Rating: 4.0/5.0 — Amazing riffs, guys, but talk to me after class about your confusion on monetary policy.
Label: Slaney Records
Websites: vindicatormetal.com | bandcamp | facebook
Release Date: July 9th, 2012
You know that a trend is reaching “carrying capacity” when you’re working on your fourth review of that genre in a single week, but I thought I’d take time out of my busy avoiding-writing-a-review-of-the-new-Nile-record schedule to let you know that the thrash band with the best logo since Kreator is back with a new record. While 2010’s Antique Witcheries never really sat well with me—largely because of the vocal stylings of former bass player and vocalist Marshall Law—United We Fall sees the band sans their former vocalist, and with rhythm guitarist and founding member Vic Stown filling those shoes. And though I’m not up to my neck in thrash comparisons like Steel Druhm and F.A.G. I know what sounds good… and the new Vindicator sounds pretty fucking good to me.
So, let’s not kid ourselves or anything, there’s nothing really new about the Vindicator sound. Obviously influenced by the Bay Area thrash movement with a touch of Sodom and Kreator thrown in, these guys are doing what you expect from a retro thrash band: knocking out balls-to-the-walls thrash anthems with a backbone made of frantic triplet picking, 4/4 time signatures, copious crash symbols and 8th note snare, movie quotes and beer soaked political rants. Oh, and let’s not forget the guitar solos. Combine those all, and you know how it goes: if the songs are good, the thrash is hot, the beer is luke warm and the vocalist doesn’t annoy you too much—you have the combination for a really kick ass record!
The highlights are numerous for me: first, while Vindicator is nothing new, they are committed to writing amazing riffs and stellar songs. This should be immediately obvious from grindy double bass laced intro of “Gears of Fate,” which has a bridge riff worthy of a place at the head of the retro-thrash pack or on the two minute musical track “End Dependence.” And while “At War with Our Neighbors” starts with a riff that sounds like a classic Megadeth riff and ends with a riff that sounds like it’s literally quoting the band, it works, and the harmonies leave the grinning from ear to ear. That thrashes right into a finger blistering solo on “Fire Escape” with a Kreator riff that scorches the skin. Or while we’re on the back end of the record, the bridge in “Nationwide Ruination” is totally immense and really reminds me of the harmonized, but syncopated breakdown in “Dystopia” by the aforementioned Germans. And the breakdown in the title track “Divided We Stand… United We Fall” should not go unmentioned; it’s basically the most progressive and interesting thing I’ve heard on a retro-thrash record.
The drums here riff along with the guitars in a way that really reminds me of Nico McBrain from the early Iron Maiden records; drummer Stown seems keenly aware of the feel and flow of the song and performing the tropes with remarkable skill. And while great leads are also a “trope” of their own in thrash metal, I have to say that Vindicator really took it up a notch when they got former Holy Grail and White Wizzard guitarist James Larue in the band. His guitar solos rock this whole record from front to back (“Bastards of Noise and Aggression” might be the best ones) and make it seriously enjoyable to listen to. I don’t know if I’ve heard a soloist lift the profile of a band as much as since Ryan Knight joined The Black Dahlia Murder. This kid rips out killer solo after killer solo that when combined with the band’s biggest strength (their riffs), completes the Vindicator sound with gusto.
But United We Fall does have some things I can crank about. The first of my cranks is the vocals. While Stown’s vocals are a definite step up from Marshall Law’s monotone rasps, they’re still a little hit and miss. Sometimes I love ’em (like his Mustaine impression on “Hail to the Thief”), and they work well. This is usually when he’s working more dynamics and melody in. Sometimes, though, they get a little monotonous and then they suddenly seem very high in the mix. Crank #2 is lyrical content. I might be totally off here, but the lyrics to title track “Divided We Stand… United We Fall” sounds like a states rights song, which stands in contrast to opening track “Gears of Fate” which sounds like it’s about climate change. If the federal government cannot act as a single entity and taxes are bad, what are we supposed to do about climate change? Thrash it away? And the reek of Mustainesque paranoia at the Fed makes me want to launch into a rant about why central banks are necessary for economic stability and fiat currency is great for regular people (something about not being crucified on a cross of gold). When a band has political lyrics, I like to be able to scream along with them and agree and that only happens in a couple places here (“Fatal Infection” is great). Lastly, the bass kind of goes missing in this recording. I’m not sure if there’s a bit of a Jason Newstead effect going on here but, hey guys, turn Ed Stephens the fuck up. Even with my monitor headphones the bass falls too far back in the mix at times.
But fuck it, kids, let’s not joke around. You’re here for the riffs, the guitar solos and copious amounts of headbanging (also beer). And that, indeed, is what you’re going to get from Vindicator. This record is a non-stop thrash fest from the word go and I love every minute of it. Now if only I had some gold shavings with which to purchase it…