Algebra – Chiroptera Review

Ask most folks around the world to describe Swiss culture in a word, and I’d bet that “precise” ends up in the top ten most common responses. Switzerland is known for producing precision-made watches, cutlery, and chocolates, and thanks to Coroner’s technical version of the genre, we can probably add precision-made thrash metal to the list. And if we want to emphasize that last point, we need look no further than Swiss thrashers Algebra, whose incredibly intricate thrash thoroughly impressed me on 2019’s Pulse?. I could tell back then that Algebra had a winning formula on their hands but that they would need to refine their sound and songwriting to truly let it shine. Nearly three years later, they’re back with follow-up, and fourth record overall, Chiroptera. Let’s see if they can hit it out of the park with this at-bat.

Not a lot has changed for Algebra musically in the last three years, but just about everything great about their sound has been taken up a notch on Chiroptera. The Sepultura-meets-Slayer grooves are still abundant, and the hardcore-tinged vocals once again give the album a strong crossover bent that should please fans of Power Trip and Enforced. But the thing that sets Algebra apart from these aforementioned bands is the technical, almost progressive, elements that permeate the material. Embedded single “Kleptomaniac” demonstrates this whole package by featuring an intense Slayer riff played with impossible precision and then closing with a slow breakdown topped by off-kilter, harmonic-infused leads.

Guitarists Ed Nicod and Nick Abery are an incredible thrash duo, and their riffs are the highlight of the record; their guitar work is deceptively complex, that complexity hidden by the ostensibly simple song structures on Chiroptera. After the brief, relatively pointless melodic intro track—just connect it to the second track, guys!—”Resuscitation” gradually raises our heart rate into supraventricular tachycardic levels, starting with a nice, sick crossover groove then moving into some scorching thrash rhythms. “Suspect” shows off all their styles, beginning with a rapid Bay Area-style riff, moving into a malevolent video game dungeon bridge section, and then dropping into a punk/thrash groove for the brief chorus. And then to show off their proggy weirdness, the song ends with some odd time signature changes as it chugs to a close. While all these sounds are produced by many a thrash and crossover band, the technicality with which Algebra delivers them is unmatched.

As it exists, Chiroptera is forty-three minutes and twelve-ish tracks of very good thrash, but with a few minor changes, it could have been truly great. The length is totally fine here, addressing one of the gripes I had with the record’s predecessor (Pulse? was 57 minutes long), but one of my gripes remains: the attempted clean vocals and harmonies thereof. Nicod, who also performs vocal duties, has a great hardcore shout that really works for the band’s tech-crossover style, and while a few tracks use his cleans sparingly and come out none the worse for wear, a couple otherwise killer songs are marred by larger doses (“Constricted” and “Eternal Sleep”). Had these tracks been chopped, we’re looking at thirty-four minutes of absolutely stellar thrash. It’s hard to pick favorites from the rest, but “Kleptomaniac,” and the mid-album run of “Accomplice,” the title track, and “Suspect” are particularly awesome.

Chiroptera is without a doubt stronger than its predecessor, but it’s flawed enough to prevent me from scoring it higher. Hidden within this very good record is greatness, and if Algebra can shake their tendency to inject post-grungy rock vocals into their lethal technical crossover thrash, their formula will be hard to beat.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Unspeakable Axe Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: September 19th, 2022

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