Warbeast // Destroy
Rating: 3.0/5.0 — Strap yourself into your skull tank! It’s thrash!
Label: Housecore | Season of Mist
Release Dates: US: 04.02.2013 | EU: 2013.04.12
Destroy is the second full-length record for Arlington, Texas-based thrash metal warriors Warbeast. It follows 2010’s promising debut Krush the Enemy, and a split, also released in 2013, with Philip H. Anselmo and the Illegals, entitled War of the Gargantuas. Before becoming a formal entity in 2008, Warbeast existed in another incarnation: The Texas Metal Alliance. Formed in 2006 from members of several Texan thrash bands, including Rigor Mortis, Gammacide, Devilfist and Demonseed, the band originally formed to play a benefit show for injured Hammer Witch bassist Wayne Abney, playing covers from each of the four members’ old bands. They continued to play with a variety of guest vocalists until they decided to stay together, start recording new original material, and changed their name to Warbeast in the process.
Their origins illuminate Warbeast‘s primary strength: the raw, pummelling, pulverizing energy that only occurs when the musicians absolutely adore what they are doing and have complete creative freedom. Destroy is marked by the incredible chemistry of the band members, the enthusiasm for the material they are writing and the sheer fun they have playing it. It’s this, as much as their approach, that keeps their thrash feeling so fresh and vibrant. With so much retro-thrash enthusiasm the genre can sometimes feel over-saturated [You don’t say… – AMG], but Destroy captures that sparkling purity, the distilled essence and energy that so many bands try to synthesize.
The guitar work, courtesy of Scott Shelby (Gammacide, ex-Cauldron) and Bobby Tillotson (ex-Demonseed), is creative and intelligent, going far beyond simple impudent thrash catchiness. The riffs occasionally gesture towards post-metal complexity without ever becoming pretentious. The guitar solos on “Egotistical Bastard” display blistering technical proficiency, but don’t descend into indulgence; each solos was included because it sounded really fucking cool, and there is an honest giddiness in the way they are deployed, as though Warbeast can’t wait for the listener to be just as stoked as they are about this material.
The positively leonine, roaring vocals of Bruce Corbitt (ex-Rigor Mortis) are another highlight, snarling with genuine hunger through songs like “Nightmares in the Sky” and sounding deranged on “Nobody.” He uses his voice as a weapon, aiming it at the listener and firing away, each bark a bullet burning it’s way out of the chamber of his throat. This focus on violence is driven home even more clearly on the track “War of the Worlds,” which sounds positively militaristic. And it’s not just the vocals; If the drumming had to be compared to a weapon, it would be a tommy gun: the most violence delivered as quickly as possible. Heck, album opener “Cryogenic Thawout” even ends with a blast of machine gun fire to hammer this point home.
There is a certainly a lot to recommend Destroy, but it also has its flaws. For one, it seems like a record caught between time periods. On one hand, the record features unusual song structures, unexpected changes in rhythm and an overall more sophisticated approach to songwriting than is often seen in a thrash album. It is well-written and equally well-executed. However, it also suffers from many afflictions that often plague thrash records, the greatest of which is that it still has a datedness and simplicity by virtue of its genre. Thrash always sounds like thrash, even great, well-executed examples. No matter how hard a band tries to make something new and authentic, and Warbeast, try admirably, there is always something of an homage that clings to any example in the wake of the retro-thrash movement.
The production also doesn’t help the album at all; it isn’t abysmal, but also doesn’t do Destroy any favors. The over all sounds come across just a little too slick and bloated, trying too hard for the spirit that Warbeast try (usually successfully) to capture. The audio samples are also usually unnecessary, and often veer over onto the wrong side of cheesy. Neither of these are flaws of outsized importance, but they just don’t elevate the record any further. Also, the track “The Day of…” seems oddly out of place, an effort for somber, dirge-like sludge that mourns the effects of violence rather than celebrating its glories, like the rest of the album does. It seems like a move to try and balance and mature the record, but I am not sure it works.
At its most straightforward, Destroy is a well above average thrash record, forty minutes of high-speed metal assault that is perfect for ears still hungry for the genre. The intelligent song-writing, exceptional musicianship and passion keep Warbeast a cut above the rest. There are a few faltering missteps, but whenever Warbeast focus on their strengths and allow the music to shine for itself, Destroy cannot be stopped.