Our resident Gungan evangelist recently posited a view in the AMG Slack group that has had me thinking a lot about why I don’t listen to a lot of straight thrash metal anymore. His view that the genre feels invalidated by Metallica’s best records, though initially seeming blasphemous, eventually became gospel to my ears. I’d personally swap Metallica for Kreator, but in essence, I’m completely in agreement with this stance; beyond notable experimental exceptions like Skeletonwitch or Vektor, modern thrash metal in its base form is inherently shallow, with bands failing almost universally to validate their existence among the classic acts. But sometimes – sometimes – everything just falls into place, where the riff-flow is particularly engaging, the solos thoroughly exhilarating, and the production unexpectedly excellent. Cue Germany’s Antipeewee and their third LP, Infected by Evil.
Now, this isn’t to say that Antipeewee is the next Skeletonwitch, or any other such promo kit-friendly nonsense; they’re just really fucking proficient at melding classic and modern metal sensibilities. Rather than emulating the primal aggression of their Teutonic forebears, Antipeewee’s core sound is rooted in American acts such as Overkill and Exodus, which is evident in the more traditional riffage exhibited in tracks like “Infected by Evil” and “Buried (No Way Out”). Yet regular curveballs, like the rapid-fire melodeath rhythms of “Symphony of Doom” and the crossover, Municipal Waste-esque bite of “Army of Deep Ones,” keep the proceedings fresh. Further spicing the brew is a strong reliance and melodic leads and tremolo riffs, solos which exude Iron Maiden or even power metal levels of infectiousness, and universally strong and memorable riffs that are regularly swapped out so as to never feel repetitive. To sum all of that up: Infected by Evil rocks.
Though this is one of the better thrash records I’ve delved into in recent years (and certainly the best I’ve ever covered for this blog), it’s clear from the first listen that Infected by Evil has an editing problem, however slight. This issue doesn’t pertain to track lengths; on the contrary, Antipeewee does a fantastic job in the songwriting department on even its longest tracks, with compositional mix-ups such as “Dreams in the Witch House”’s conversion from a stomping swing section to a melodic waltz and finally back to a full-speed-ahead classic thrash attack being fully engaging, despite that track’s six-and-a-half minute length. Rather, the record feels a bit long even at only forty-seven minutes, with my interest waning around the 8th track, but that might be a purely personal problem as thrash usually only holds my attention in half-hour bursts. Either way, it would be cruel to cut anything from the tracklist, as even the sole mid-paced cut “D.A.G.O.N.” has one of the catchiest solo sections of the entire album.
My hang-ups with the album’s length are certainly no fault of the vibrant, dynamic production; Hubi Hoffman, who was responsible for the recording, mixing, and mastering, did an outstanding job engineering Infected by Evil. The mix balance is perfect aside from lead guitars that can be ever-so-slightly overloud on occasion, but the gritty, thundering, and completely audible bass tone and the forceful pop of the skins bring out the absolute best of the rhythm section. Perhaps the most distinct component of Antipeewee is vocalist, um, PeeWee – his commanding, abrasive shouts remind of Rigor Mortis’ Bruce Corbitt, and his unpredictable shrieks that kick off tracks like “Symphony of Doom” are excellent at generating hype. His vocal approach may not be for everyone, but I find that his distinct performance effectively rounds out Antipeewee’s hugely talented roster.
I don’t usually cover thrash metal for this blog for reasons outlined in the first paragraph, but records like Infected by Evil serve as excellent reminders as to why I should not only endeavor to better balance my review portfolio, but to keep up with genres I typically neglect. Antipeewee may not reinvent the wheel, but there is so much heart and character packed into Infected by Evil’s riffs, songwriting, and pervasively Lovecraftian lyrics that it breathes life into my interest in thrash all the same. If this had been released in 2008 at the height of the re-thrash movement, this may very well have been held as a modern thrash staple, and even though Antipeewee is a decade late to the party, thrash fans of all stripes should absolutely join in on the fun.
DR: 10 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: This Charming Man Records Official | Bandcamp
Websites: antipeewee.com | antipeewee.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/antipeewee
Releases Worldwide: June 29th, 2018