I guess it’s only fitting that I’d follow up a review of the newest Machine Head record with another long-lost thrash band. This time, it’s a German outfit that hit the scene in 1986 and has more thrash metal cred than the thrash/groove/rap-metal outfit from Oakland, CA. Even if no one has any idea who they are. Accuser‘s first two records, 1987’s The Conviction and 1989’s Who Dominates Who?, are underrated thrash metal classics. The latter, in particular, is a thrashpiece that combines the technicality of Testament and Annihilator with Kreator, Metallica, and Destruction. But after 1987, the band swan-dived straight into the groove-metal pavement for the next four releases. With this nightmarish Pantera-like tailspin finally coming to a halt after Taken by the Throat. And, to no one’s surprise, the band was no more.
But, after a good fifteen-year hiatus, the band returned. This time, it brought the quick-strep of Destruction, the punishment of Sodom, and the layering of ’90s Testament. Not only that, but the band proved to be far more passionate before their collapse in the mid-’90s. But it’s been eight years and four albums since Accuser‘s 2010 comeback, Agitation. So, how have they been faring? And how will 2018’s The Mastery stack up against thirty years of releases?
Well, if you’ve been following the band since Agitation, you already know what The Mastery sounds like. Since 2010, the band has been working to master the art of iron-pumping thrash/groove metal, without much in the way of deviation. The Mastery, like bruisers Dependent Domination and Diabolic before it, has a vocal style that denies peace and cruises at the top speed of a panzer. With guitar and drum work that grinds bone into powder, you can imagine this album—like many before it—is without its deep thinking moments. Nor is it a groundbreaking exercise in the thrash realm. Not to mention the fact that you can probably guess how compressed this disc is. That said, if you need some palette-cleansing material after a shit day at work, The Mastery might be for you.
But, for those that miss the days of Who Dominates Who?, this new record ain’t gonna do jackshit for you. All you need to do is listen to the hard-hitting opener “Mission: Missile” and it’s Tom Warrior-esque vocal arrangements to figure that out. From the opener to the self-titled closer, you won’t find many variations from the wall-cracking riffs. There’s the Death Angel-like drum, guitar, and vocal assaults on “The Real World” (and cowbell), and standout, full-band choruses screaming to the heavens on the galloping “Ruthless,” the bulldozer-like “Catacombs,” and the Sodom-meets-Dethklok “Time for Silence.” Each has a catchiness that’ll pound on your eardrums with the compression of a car compactor.
Then there’re tracks like “Mourning,” “My Skin,” and “Solace in Sorrow.” Each has a mix of mid-to-fast-paced arrangements that do little and carry on far too long. These three are the longest and have a tendency to meander along simplistic riff, solo, and vocal patterns without giving much to the disc. Especially when they rely on simplistic Godsmack/Metallica/Lamb of God riffs. That said, of the three, “Mourning” and “My Skin” have enough going on to keep them from trailing off into disappointment. While the chorus on “Solace in Sorrow” lulls me to sleep.
But the highlights of the record are the addictive “Into the Black” and the title track closer. “Into the Black” has one of the biggest choruses and the closer is pure, fucking thrash. As sing-along pieces or promoters of neck-snapping whiplash go, these back-to-back tracks are good additions to the album and a good way to end it.
Since the band’s resurrection in 2010, they have been riding the rails of decent and, sometimes, just-beyond-decent death/thrash/groove metal. The kind that’ll fire you up to the same extent of Destruction, occasionally impress you to the level of mid-’90s-and-on Testament, and send your mind into Sodomizing war-like dreams. Since the band’s second coming, Dependent Domination and Diabolic have stood out as a couple of their better releases. And, though, The Mastery may not be as complete as Diabolic, it does keep the passion the band has recaptured after Taken by the Throat. In the end, this is another solid release from these underrated legends. Another release that fans will enjoy and haters of the style should steer clear from.