Detraktor – Grinder Review

Brewing a good cup of nostalgia is a delicate art. Being merely reminded of something—akin to South Park’s “Memberberries”—is fleeting and while the first sip is fine, the rest of the cup proves to be bland or even distasteful. The quality mixed with the aesthetic is what makes nostalgic stuff satisfying. It’s not enough to make a game that looks like Contra if it doesn’t play like Contra or perhaps even better—successful nostalgia will recapture the experience of playing it “back then” but bring it forward to today with the necessary tweaks that don’t harm or otherwise alter the essence. This was the secret to the success of Hard Corps: Uprising, a truly excellent game in the Contra niche. Bad nostalgia is a cheap rehash, a way to emotionally manipulate the audience long enough to get controllers in hands, music in ears, or folks in seats.

For most people my age, Pantera was a crucial part of our metallic upbringing. The grooves, the accessible extremity, the hooks, the hits—these propelled us into extreme metal fandom when we sought what was through the gateway Pantera showed us. The side effect is that people brought up on Pantera—specifically their second and third Anselmo-era records—prize the kinetic aspects of metal, which may help explain the deathcore phenomenon of the late 2000s. Detraktor plays a specific style of metal, one that is heavily influenced by Pantera and Dukes-era Exodus, which are both things I grew up with and still enjoy. Chunky riffs are the order of the day, and speed plays a significant role as well.

The problem with imitating these bands as slavishly as Detraktor does here is that there are outsized personalities at the core of each. Dukes was a formidable frontman, and Gary Holt has a knack for a specific kind of riff that just sounds like him. Pantera was comprised of four big personalities, the biggest being “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott, whose riffing and lead work is unique in the genre to this day. “Not Many More” sounds like something intended to sound like Pantera but lacks any real energy or interest, coming off as a hollow imitation by people who seem to believe that mere chugging is the essence of Pantera’s style. “Pride” has that Southern flavor of “Where You Come From” and even does the trademark Dime pinch harmonics (think “Cemetery Gates”) in the chorus but goes nowhere and drags on for an interminable five minutes. The coda that the verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure builds up to is a knockoff Far Beyond Driven chug and then an aesthetic ripoff of the solo sections of that record. That’s it—the song doesn’t climax or build to anything, ramming two disparate half-completed songs together and filling up time with senseless repetition. It’s infuriating in its refusal to go anywhere or do anything interesting.

Vocally, Detraktor suffers as well. Phil Anselmo was one of metal’s most recognizable voices, his energetic shouting and gruff, earnest cleans adding personality to the vocal front of Pantera. Paul Baloff, Zetro Souza, and Rob Dukes all had distinct personalities in Exodus, and Holt seemed to write according to their personalities—both Atrocity Exhibitions were chuggier and more “aggro” than prior works, for instance. Detraktor employs a shrill shout that sounds like any other modern thrash-adjacent band, lacking clean hooks to bolster the tracks or the charisma of the three Exodus frontmen to really sell the lyrics as Dukes did on “Burn Hollywood Burn” (to name one example). Grinder’s title track threatens to be interesting in its solo section, ending it with some subtle melody work that’s surprisingly effective, but then drops the bottom out and heads into another faceless chugging riff that’s so forgettable that the next forgettable riff has the effect of wiping it from memory.

The whole problem with a project like Detraktor is that it takes influences solely from bands that are leagues ahead of them in songwriting and musicianship. The lead work in “Rejekt” (consistently dumb spelling, at least) plagiarizes Holt to an uncomfortable degree but lacks the riffs to back it up. This sounds like a group of guys who grew up with Exodus and Pantera making a band and playing what they love, and for that I applaud them. The final product, though, is lacking in charm, charisma, and memorability. Their target fanbase is so steeped in the records they pilfer that the flaws will be painfully, saliently obvious to them. An unenviable position for an uninteresting record.

Rating: 1.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Violent Creek Records
Releases Worldwide: September 20th, 2019

« »