2019 saw the thrash tractor-trailer climb back onto the road to success after careening over a ravine in a fiery explosion of mediocrity in the preceding year. Thankfully, there were a lot of great examples of the genre offered forth by bands new and old last year, so I’m going to keep rolling the dice in hopes that they remain hot. Bonded is a German band that qualifies as both new and old when it comes to thrash. Rest in Violence is their debut record, but founders Bernd “Bernemann” Kost and Markus “Makka” Freiwald are both longtime veterans of Teutonic thrash legends Sodom. The duo has assembled an army of talent and is launching an all-out assault on the groovier side of the thrash subgenre tree. Will this initial foray hit with the force of an agent orange drop, or is it better off dead?
Well, quite frankly, the answer is both. Bonded certainly carries some of its Sodomic heritage into battle, but they also bring to mind modern Testament and, for better and worse, a bit of the southern groove of Pantera. In order to let you inside the mind of Holdeneye (abandon hope all ye who enter here), I’m going to deliberately break policy and delve into a partial track by track analysis1. I want you to feel both my elation and my pain as I journey along with Bonded, so you can understand just how difficult this record has been to score. Ready? Is all your hope abandoned? Good. First up: “Godgiven.” It begins like Formation of Damnation era Testament then settles into a decent little Pantera groove complete with Ingo Bajonczak’s Phil Anselmo vocals and some great leads from Bernemann and Chris Tsitsis. Not a bad start and things get even better as the embedded “Suit Murderer”2 channels the melodic groove of modern Kreator and album highlight “Rest in Violence” appears bearing some nasty Bay Area speed and features a guest spot by Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth (Overkill).
At this point, Rest in Violence has built some serious momentum, and “Je Suis Charlie” doesn’t alter the course. It’s a mid-paced vulgar display of groove, but it feels authentic enough to avoid the potential traps of such an overdone style. “The Rattle and the Snake” dials up the speed and sees Bajonczak’s voice take on a bit of Chuck Billy’s powerful roar before a southern groove complete with harmonica arrives at the midpoint. It’s odd for sure, but I’ve been so impressed by Bonded‘s varied take on thrash up to this point that I’m not overly concerned. The track finishes in bruising fashion, and the sinister intro to “No Cure for Life” gets me super stoked. Yes! It’s about time for a nice, slow chugger! An excellent groove kicks in, and I’m expecting to get absolutely pummeled when — wait, what’s happening? Oh god, no! Bajonczak is growl-singing and it seems like “No Cure for Life” is supposed to be a ballad, and it’s just not working. A momentary misstep, I hope? It seems so as “Where Silence Reverberates” begins with a nasty groove and has some excellent riffs, but the pre-chorus grates me and the song wastes its potential and falls into the filler bin.
Unfortunately, the remaining tracks take after “Where Silence Reverberates” by including some really tasty riffs and leads before being hamstrung by some awkward lyrics (“Galaxy M87”) or awkward singing (the closing ballad “The Outer Rim”). “Arrival” is sandwiched between the latter two missteps and is a good thrasher, but it can’t overcome the flaws of its neighbors. The production is super modern, loud, and crunchy, but that’s exactly what they were going for, and it fits the style. Bernemann and Tsitsis win MVP honors because the guitar work is killer throughout, even when the songs don’t seem to be working. Standout tracks are the first five mentioned above plus “Arrival,” and they show that when Bonded kills, they kill.
I’ll credit Bonded for trying to add some variety to their debut, but I wish they’d kept the pedal to the floor. This band absolutely slays when going full speed, and even if they’d simply cut “No Cure for Life” and “The Outer Rim,” the highlights might have been enough to carry Rest in Violence to a very good score. Bottom line: Bonded put a little too much rest in their violence.