Bushido Code – The Ronin Review

I’m a sucker for odd combos. Purple and yellow for an action movie poster instead of the boring and overused red-blue scheme? Sign me the fuck up. A crossover that’s actually also a convertible? I think that’s fucking stupid but sign me the fuck up anyway. So when I saw that Pennsylvania/North Carolina quintet Bushido Code’s debut The Ronin came with the thrash metal tag, artwork that looks like a cross between Overwatch concept art and West Coast style graffiti, and stitched together with Japanese samurai themes which may or may not extend somewhat beyond pure aesthetics, I felt compelled to cover it. My hopes high, my excitement fully toked, I took this promo anticipating the possibility of something wild and wonderful just around the corner.

I’ll admit, I might have gotten a bit too excited for The Ronin. First off, it’s not really thrash, or at least it’s not only thrash. Bushido Code play a groove-laden death-thrash hybrid that runs on a platform more commonly associated with hardcore, although they don’t quite earn the hardcore tag itself in the process. This mix of styles results in three main effects. Firstly, riffs fall almost universally under the “mad gainz, bro” category, which is absolutely a plus here. My advice is to be careful when headbanging because the last thing you want is to smack your noggin mid-rep on that seventy pound dumbell that spontaneously manifested in your fist. Secondly, lyrics shy away from the typical tough-guy chest-puffery of the groove metal scene or the political attack of thrash metal, instead opting for a quasi-depressive loneliness bloodied by an undercurrent of murderous rage, which seems fitting considering the album is called The Ronin. Thirdly, the album is incredibly tight and direct, clocking in at a particularly lithe twenty-nine minutes.

Unfortunately, some of those twenty-nine minutes are wasted. Bushido Code disrupts the flow of energy by adding an instrumental interlude (“Prelude to Battle”). It’s just uninteresting enough to be a burden on such a short runtime, and hurts the impact of the second half as a result. Additionally, while all the riffs here serve the music well and definitely engage me as a listener, some lack identity, resulting in difficulties with track differentiation and overall memorability. As a final point, The Ronin feels underdeveloped as a story. These songs give the impression that Bushido Code had something really interesting in store for me, and the album opens with an incredibly strong showing of both melody and riffcraft to bolster the introduction of the album’s main antihero. However, each time the album closes out I can’t help wanting some kind of plot twist or unexpected climax somewhere around “1600.” Using this kind of plot device to create more conflict or alter the direction and mood of the story would’ve made the whole a lot more compelling than it currently is.

However, when Bushido Code deliver the goods, they deliver. As mentioned before, “The Ronin” shows that the band know how to make a groovy song that hits hard and leaves considerable long-term injury. “Relic of War” fakes you out with a somewhat lukewarm introduction before dropping a huge mid-paced barrage and leaving the wreckage with a sly smirk and a light dusting of ash in the air. Despite it’s moody character, “1600” creates an interesting pivot point for the album where its militant nature falls away, nearly transforming into a melancholy—but also thrashier—ode to defeat, resentment and solitude. It’s a strange musical direction for the band, but it’s nevertheless a compelling excuse to dig deeper into the album and dissect it’s deceiving depth.

At the end of the day, Bushido Code’s The Ronin represents an interesting take on the death-thrash philosophy. While at first it seems to focus on the attack, its character changes and the record becomes something much more strongly grounded in emotional strife and personal conflict, while musically mutating ever closer towards straight-up thrash metal in kind. The strength of this odd pairing can’t be ignored, but it feels like crucial parts of the story are missing and as a result the album lacks power and punch. Still, I wouldn’t let your eyes drift too far away from Bushido Code, lest you find yourself under the business end of a wengeful blade.1.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kb/s mp3
Label: Upstate Records
Websites: facebook.com/bushidocodemetal | bushidocode.bandcamp.com
Releases Worldwide: April 16th, 2021

Show 1 footnote

  1. Now go watch Shogun Assassin. – Steel
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