Blood Tsunami. Now, there’s a name I haven’t heard in some time. It’s not that they fell off the radar or anything. I mean, it’s only been five years since they released For faen!. But, I didn’t like that album. Not the first, second, or last time I heard it. So, I suppose, they kinda fell off my radar. Though there’re mixed feelings about its predecessor, Grand Feast for Vultures—such as lacking the old-school sound of the debut record, Thrash Metal—I fucking adore that album. All fifty minutes of it. Even the twelve-minute instrumental, “Horsehead Nebula.” It was brave and original, breaking the band away from their tried-and-true Kreator-meets-Slayer sound. But, then they threw it to the wayside for For faen!, returning to their blackened approach on thrash songs that were written years ago. Not surprising, this year’s Grave Condition comes with anticipation, excitement, and dread. Let’s find out which path this Norwegian troupe—made up of Evil Pete (ex-host of Norway’s Headbanger’s Ball) and Faust (ex-Emperor, ex-murderer)—will take on their new record, Grave Condition.
As it turns out, Blood Tsunami took eight original songs (minus the fact that three of them appear on Demo 2012), one Onslaught cover song, and a twenty-seven-minute runtime (the band’s shortest to date), and relived the early years of the Bay Area thrash scene. Though Evil Pete’s voice is much harsher than Tom Araya’s1 and has a meaner bite than the death growls of Chuck Billy, the influence is still there. And while Pete’s guitars and Faust’s drums are more punishing than, say, Metallica or Slayer, 1983 is calling.
Take the opener, “Poison Tongue,” for example. This is the closest anyone has come to Slayer‘s Hell Awaits-era since Slayer themselves. So much so that it’s beefy riffs, shredding solos, and Araya-like vocals make it a perfect addition to Haunting the Chapel. While “Poison Tongue” will appeal to Slayer‘s shredding fans, “The Acid King” uses a road-rage riff to entice those into the sinister atmospheres of Reign in Blood and South of Heaven. On the flip-side, “The Allegory of the Cave” mixes in old-school Metallica leads with Slayer vox and “The Cruel Leading the Fool” coats Testament riffs in thick, black blood.
But songs like “The Acid King” do have some originality. Especially when it comes to the song’s chorus—one that matches the song’s brimstone vibe. The other song with a noticeable chorus is the melodic, yet addictive, “Gargoyle.” It’s fast and passionate, has a subtle punkiness to it, and the most-diverse vocals on the record. This one is my favorite. That said, “The Collapse” and before-mentioned “The Cruel Leading the Fool” aren’t far behind. Both are typical thrash pieces but the badass riffs and thrashtastic energy are infectious.
The songs that don’t work are “In the Dungeon of the Rats,” “For faen i hælvete!,” and the Onslaught cover, “Steel Meets Steel.” The first one because I’ve already heard it twice before—once on For faen! and the other time on Demo 2012. It’s not a bad number, but it’s like they’re ripping themselves off over and over again. “For faen i hælvete!” is another from the band’s 2012 demo and, boy, is this one-and-a-half minute, punky blitzkrieg is completely out of place. As for the cover… well, covers are covers. Either you hate them or love them. If anything, you can say the boys took the lively, punk-infused original and injected black tar into its workings. For better or worse.
As far as Blood Tsunami albums go, Grave Condition is a notch below Thrash Metal, a notch above For faen!, and two-to-three notches below Grand Feast for Vultures. Unfortunately, there is nothing new here and the album loses steam toward the end. For me, the band hit its creative peak with Grand Feast and now they seem to be writing old-school thrash for old-school-thrash sake. Which isn’t a bad thing. But don’t come here looking for the next new thing.