Bust out your steel umbrellas, it’s raining fucking anvils! The thrashing Bay Area trio Chemical Burn return a decade after releasing their Bury Your Demons debut with an album that is not quite what it seems. On the surface the band come across as your typical retro thrash outfit, but in delving deeper Chemical Burn deliver a sound that’s surprisingly dynamic yet old school in spirit. There are whiffs of the ’80s thrash scene of their roots combined with modern sensibilities and plenty of ’90s groove metal, hardcore and crossover elements. On the whole the album fits more into the groove metal category despite the thrashy overtones, sounding like an oddball cocktail of Low-era Testament, Pantera, older Machine Head and perhaps even Biohazard, without blatantly aping any one band. Basically, Chemical Burn deal in old school, meat and potatoes groove metal battery and while the song-writing gets a little cheesy and doesn’t always stick, Raining Anvils makes for a reasonably adventurous and fun listen in the short term.
Raining Anvils kicks into gear with the high octane balls-to-the-wall thrash of “I Rise I Fly” boasting urgent thrashy riffs, boisterous drumming and the snarly, occasionally cartoonish growls of bassist Mike Garnica. It’s a solid ride with some decent hooks and heavier slower parts and is well suited as an opener. Guitarist Marc Pattison (Circle II Circle) performs capably throughout the album, preferring the straightforward approach of hooky, groove-laced riffs and leads over anything particularly technical or showy. His solos compliment the songs well however, adding a touch of flair to the solid musicianship.
“My Weakness” veers into crossover territory, combining elements of thrash, groove, hardcore and rap metal attitude, driven by pummeling double bass and swaggering riffs dripping with groove. Garnica’s aggressive vocal delivery and some of the rhythmic patterns fuse potentially deal-breaking rap elements into the mix, but I’ll be damned if the song doesn’t succeed in getting the head banging, especially during the catchy chorus and killer riff at the 2:51 minute mark following some funkafied bass licks. Chunky riffs and bluesy metal swagger mark the simplistic chug of “Crush Your Ego” and “Raining Anvils,” with both songs featuring over-the-top Phil Anselmo-isms and corny lyrics to water down the guilty pleasure hooks. The rugged grooves and rock-out metal attitude of “We Ain’t Done Yet” and tough, aggro exterior of “Like a God,” featuring some soulful shredding, fare better, but like much of the material on Raining Anvils the hooks are only skin deep and for the most part easy to forget.
Despite being a comfortable listen with loads of fat bluesy metal riffs and mildly catchy song-writing, Raining Anvils fails to muster any great excitement. Basically it’s an easy album to like but difficult to fully endorse. Much of the song-writing struggles to make lasting impressions and Chemical Burn are guilty of firing plenty of cheeseballs along the way, particularly in the vocal and lyrical departments. And occasionally the awkward genre splicing and forced moments bring the album down, even though the riff driven assault rollicks along in a reasonably satisfying fashion. Production duties were competently handled by Juan Urteaga (Testament, Machine Head), providing Raining Anvils with thick and bruising sonic heft to match the band’s burly guitar-driven delivery.
This is an occasionally fun and entertaining blast but is hardly essential listening. And while these tunes would probably go down well at the tail-end of a night of drunken shenanigans, I honestly can’t imagine revisiting it much in the future. But for listeners with a craving for old school groove metal with a modern crunch, this might be the jam you’re looking for.