Riding in the sizable wake of retro thrash darling Havok‘s new album comes Warbringer, delivering Woe to the Vanquished, their fifth album of Bay Area inspired thrash. Over the course of their speedy career, Warbringer have been careful to conform their sound to what is considerable acceptable for the style, cleaving close to the Exodus and Death Angel playbooks and eschewing pretty much every other influence. This has worked surprisingly well for them thus far, culminating with 2013s very entertaining IV: Empires Collapse release, which was easily their best outing. Woe to the Vanquished feels like a backlash against Empire‘s more refined thrash style, offering a much more frenzied and hostile experience more in line with their early albums, but with a few noticeable stylistic change ups as well.

Opener “Silhouettes” offers no surprises but packs in the thrashy goodness with all the key trademarks of the style. The riffs are fierce and attacking, the vocals are harsh and frantic and everything is set to 11.5. The dystopian lyrics about life after nuclear war are as tailor-made for thrash as bullet belts and beer, and this is a nice example of the band’s sound. I especially like the guitar harmonies and heavy crunching riffage which reminds me of the salad days of Exodus (who personally ate no salad whatsoever). The album highlight is the mighty “Remain Violent” which is about as fun as a thrash song can be with good, friendly violence leaking out of every orifice. John Kevill’s commanding vocals are especially effective here and when he growls “you will respect my auth…or…ity” it’s hard not to picture Eric Cartman diving off a stage in full cop garb.

“Spectral Asylum” rocks a moody, grinding style with black and death metal influences and an eerie vibe, and “Divinity of Flesh” is a scorcher with blastbeats, blackened trem riffing and a healthy allotment of Testament-esque guitar interplay. The album closes with the 11-minute “When the Guns Fell Silent,” which opts to take the album in an entirely different direction. It’s like a weird mix of anguished black metal and post-metal, often moving at a menacing mid-tempo grind, giving Mr. Kevill a lot of opportunities to stretch his vocals for some tortured screaming and roaring. It’s also a chance for Adam Carroll and Chase Becker to go all out with the fret-board gymnastics, crafting slithering blackened riffs, interesting leads and some bleak noodling as well. Sadly, as interesting and out of the ordinary as the song is for Warbringer, it feels every bit of that 11-minute runtime and by the end it’s way past the sell date.

While there are no duds or fillers, “Shellfire” and the title track are a bit less engaging than the highlights. The fact the slow, mega-moody “When the Guns Fell Silent” takes up roughly 1/4th of the album greatly impacts the overall feel and flow of what is supposed to be a thrash opus. When you combine this with a very loud production which becomes a wall of noise during busy moments, you end up with an album that has a few serious issues.

Mr. Kevill does a great job throughout, moving up the rankings of my favorite thrash vocalists in the process. He has the prototypical harsh bark down and showcases a cracking blackened cackle on several tracks. Carroll and Becker are very talented axe men and while Woe isn’t exactly a techy wonderland, they make sure the solos impress and leave no doubt the boys have chops. Jesse Sanchez and his bass make the occasional appearance, but as with most thrash albums, he’s relegated to a memory much of the time.

Woe to the Vanquished is heavier than its predecessor, but less consistent and impactful overall. That massive closer gets points for daring, but long thrash songs are always a risky gamble and it proves to be too long, over too much of the runtime. Definitely worth checking out and close to being impressive, but not quite the thrash gem I was hoping for. Wars, man….


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Napalm Records
Websites: warbringermusic.comfacebook.com/warbringermusic
Releases Worldwide: March 31st, 2017

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  • Huck N’ Roll

    Nice review. Although it goes against his type, I thought Kevill could have made the tracks better with some variance in his delivery. The music has a number of changeups like you mention, but Kevill refuses to deviate from his style.

    • I thought he showed a good deal of range on the closer which has a more black metal thing going on.

      • Huck N’ Roll

        Yeah but then I got bored in that song. Descending Blade and even some of Remain Violent could have used a more subtle touch. But then he’s not about subtle is he?

    • Oversimplifying Man

      According The fact that Kevill has the great tone for thrash metal, i can totally “forgive” him for not having variance in his delivery.

  • Ferrous Beuller

    It will definitely be an unpopular opinion around here, but up until the last couple of years, Worlds Torn Asunder was my favourite thrash release of the decade. Seriously can’t wait to wrap my lobes around this one.

  • defjam

    Steel Druhm will never bash a record I am looking forward to (although my views are not very review-dependent). Can you review Trial’s Motherless as well?

  • Oversimplifying Man

    My favorite band of the new era thrash scene. And they will most likely be my favorite thrash band soon. I loved their albums from the start. Even “War Without End” -despite being so raw- was so promising. Then they got Exodus their side, Garry Holt gave them good support and now they are fully on fire.

    On first listen, this has not become my favoire album of them but surely it is among top. And the more i listen to this, the more i like it for sure.

    One thing, in my opinion Woe to the Vanquished is one of the best song in the album, if not the best.

  • rumour_control

    “…which reminds me of the salad days of Exodus (who personally ate no salad whatsoever)” — gold in them there review salad

  • Iain Gleasure

    These seems quite good. A nice straightforward thrash album.

    If only I wasn’t annoyed by thrash right now, since I bought a Kreator ticket and now I can’t go to the show…

    • Thrash didn’t do that. Life did.

      • Iain Gleasure

        Dammit Druhm, why take away a man’s whinging? Is nothing sacred?

  • Sean Sky

    That Havok album would have been a lot better if someone else wrote the lyrics. I couldn’t stop cringing long enough to hear the music. I’m actually not familiar with Warbringer but I’ll check them out.

    • Kai

      What is worng with the lyrics? i see some bitching about that. The lyrics are awesome. Fuck religion, fuck corruption and lies.

      • DIMENSIONAL BLEEDTHROUGH

        The sentiments involved arefine, but the execution is ham-fisted and obvious. It’s not that subtlety and poetry are necessarily key ingredients of metal lyrics (especially thrash), but those Havok songs seem like doggerel written by a middle schooler who just discovered lefty politics.

        • Funny enough, the guy is probably a bit more righty than lefty if I had to label.

          Yeah, their obvious. So what. They work.

          • [not a Dr]

            that would depend on where one is located in the left-right scale…

          • …which is exactly my point: Trying to “read” into the lyrics as “pro-this” or “anti-that” is silly.

            The band clearly went out of their way to make the overarching themes obvious but without explicitly endorsing any particular doctrine.

        • Sean Sky

          Yeah, basically this. It was so cliché it hurt. Wow, 1984 / big brother references… so original… I’m also pretty sure they mixed up the words conscious and conscience on the hook in track 3. I rolled my eyes nearly out of my skull.

    • contenderizer

      with you on the lyrics. unbearable. might not have been as big a problem if they hadn’t promoted the album with a freaking lyric video.

  • Matthew Christensen

    Man…If Remain Violent is the highlight of the album, this must be generic and bland.

  • junkyhead

    Can’t understand why

    • Mark Z

      Agreed. Their best album IMO.

  • Ivan E. Rection

    Modern thrash is good and all, Evile, Power Trip, Angelus Apatrida, all good stuff. But it’s tough to reproduce that chest-cracking thrill of some of the classics from 25-30 years ago. Forced Entry “As Above..” comes to mind. Good days those were.

    • As Above so Below is one of the few thrash albums from the 80s/early 90s that I can still listen to. I don’t know, I just completely lost interest in thrash and sort of feel a lot of the bands playing it did too. I haven’t heard one modern thrash album I can listen to.

      • Ivan E. Rection

        Agreed. Bands Crafted riffs back then. They Regurgitate them now. Prime example is Power Trip… appreciate what they are doing but I didn’t feel one single “Hell Yes” moment on that album.

        • The Unicorn

          I respectfully disagree on the new Power Trip. I get so fired up by that release it is insane.

        • That whole record is a “Hell Yes” moment for me.

      • Try Nekromantheon. Yeah, they’re channelling Slayer pretty hard but they’re less obvious about it than Hellbringer and the riffs man, the motherfucking riffs!

      • Vortexian

        Not even Vektor?

  • Tom Hardy

    The logo isn’t big enough on the album art, I mean it only takes up a third of the art. Wasted opportunity … go big(ger) or go home.

  • Jeremy Freeman

    Excellent album, 4.0 VERY GOOD. Old school thrash as it should be. This dude is far to harsh on old school sounding music. He seems to favor power metal, or black metal. I was an 80’s kid, so this stuff keeps me going. ;o)

    • I’m an 80s kid too and love thrash way more than power metal, but this isn’t anywhere close to a 4.0 in my opinion. It was right between good and very good.

  • Dead1

    So stick with Havok then!