Maybe I’ve heard one too many shitty re-thrash bands but it’s easy to draw conclusions from the bold illustration and title of Biological Enslavement by Hemotoxin. I feared that simplistic chugs, an angsty vocalist and a Neanderthal’s lyrics would lie behind the spiky logo and alien landscape. Happily, Hemotoxin are marginally more refined than this. Their stable of wild, racing riffs is accompanied by just a hint of dressage, actualized through their technicality. While it offers a little more than is typical and is partly great, Biological Enslavement is also ultimately less than the sum of its parts.
There is no questioning the dazzling guitars on Biological Enslavement. Hemotoxin cites Death as an influence, and while it’s a touch closer to thrash to my ears, I can hear the comparison. They sweetly blend rocking, headband-inducing classic metal with nifty fret-work which lightly references Voivod. This is clearly Hemotoxin‘s greatest strength and the entire length is littered with great leads. Even the solos are solid, despite their unremitting wankiness. Of particular note is “Forgotten Faces” – the solo from 2:10 is backed by a clearer sound-stage which allows the epic noodling to shine through and the subsequent second half is as strong as the album gets. It’s a great track and one I’m sure I’ll be returning to.
The production is surprisingly good too. Amid a sea of apparently deaf re-thrash clones who fail to notice that their forebears actually twiddled their volume knobs occasionally, the dynamic range scores of 7 to 10 ensure that Biological Enslavement is an easy listen. The guitar tone is pleasingly old-school, like Pleasure to Kill-era Kreator, and the sloppy drums contribute to the experience by steering clear of sterile orderliness.
Aiding this was the smart decision to write an album of only 35 minutes with each track averaging just under 4 minutes. It’s short, it’s sharp and it’s easily digestible for this attention-deficit generation. Even the vocals scream urgency. They aren’t quite growls so much as rough shouts, but their energy is commendable and I can’t pick out another vocalist who sounds quite the same. Picking up after a break is easy as you’re only ever 2 minutes away from the next tight groove or frenetic solo, and the appropriate snarls usher you to that point.
You may now justifiably question how is it that such excellent riff-work is unable to sufficiently enthuse me to breach the 2.5 mark. My answer is twofold. The first part is that, as good as the riffs are, many do sound quite similar. Temporal or tonal changes are infrequent and their impact is thus dulled by affinity. The second is proximity. Riffs are stacked together in the same way that the songs are, with frequent change and no gaps between them. There are no breaks, breakdowns nor troughs to complement the peaks. I actually found myself enjoying the album more when regularly interrupted as it offered an artificial method by which the album was broken down, reminding me that my ass was being kicked. I get that Hemotoxin aren’t aiming to reinvent the wheel or cause mass re-examinations of our genre perspectives – they just want to write a rocking thrash record. But a few more steps down the proggy path on which they’re stood would afford the album dynamism and allow their key strength to shine brighter.
There is a lot to like here if you’re enamored by old-school thrash of the type which developed into death metal. Biological Enslavement is heavy, riff-oriented and of a good-to-very-good standard when taking tracks individually. But I glean little pleasure from sitting back and listening for its admittedly short entirety – must be my ADHD flaring up again – as the lines between tracks blur and only the really great bits stand out. I don’t want to say a missed opportunity: rather, could have been more.