Twenty-seventeen is turning out to be the year of thrash. On top of Kreator and Overkill, there’re new releases from Havok, Warbringer, Power Trip and, later this year, War Curse and Reign of Fury. In between all that, we also get a contribution from Australia’s own Harlott. What I like about Harlott, War Curse, and Reign of Fury is their unfaltering love for old-school songwriting. The kind bathed in the blood of early Exodus, Kreator, Metallica, and Slayer. What I love even more about them is their determination to play the style their own way; bringing a freshness as pure as adolescent rebellion. And, unfortunately, they’re all horribly underrated. Of the three, Harlott are the most aggressive; forging an Exodus–Testament–Slayer hybrid hellbent on total thrash annihilation. Previous records, Origin and Proliferation, are so devastating they set small fires in my pants and melted the linoleum off my kitchen floor. The band shoves Souza’s voice into Billy’s and Araya’s throats, excavates whole city blocks with blistering-fast guitar licks and stomping drum attacks, and lets rain shards of ripping solos and rattling basslines. And… they spelled harlot with two t’s.
As always, the same questions pop up with every rethrasher that hits the scene. Is this group a must-have for all the thrash elitists out there? Are Harlott the next breed of rethrashers to dethrone the old giants? Well, not exactly. But they do know their roots and they work hard to preserve that thrash metal attitude. Furthermore, Harlott is a band that continues to grow with each release. Though 2013’s Origin was a proper thrash debut, 2015’s Proliferation obliterated it in every possible way. Now, Harlott are out to trash and re-thrash everything they’ve put to tape. And, in the process, they seek to climb the 2017 Ladder of Thrash and place their foot on the top rung.
As far as sound and influences go on Extinction, everything is still present in the Harlott melting pot. Andrew Hudson continues his reign as Harlott‘s frontman, lead guitarist, and main songwriter and, in this capacity, unleashes crushing riffs and spits out impressionable venom with a variety of classic thrash voices. His voice takes on a Zetro Souza vibe with “Extinction,” “Parasite,” and “No Past;” an unrestrained Tom Araya snarl in “Whore,” “The Penitent,” and “Violent Conspirator;” a Mille Petrozza punch in “Final Weapon;” and a Jeff Waters gruff in closer “Epitaph.” On top of that, each song is crafted with riffs to match the tone and attitude of Hudson’s voice. The result is twelve songs delivered through the lineage of their forefathers, but expressed through modern means.
Of these twelve, the best cuts would have to be the Exodus-like attacks of “Extinction,” “Parasite,” and “Conflict Revelation;” the Slayer-esque “The Penitent” and “Violent Conspirator;” and the odd “And Darkness Brings the Light.” The first three have pummeling riffs and fist-pumping choruses that morph and shift into massive breakdowns and explosive conclusions. While “Violent Conspirator” takes everything from the previous tracks and unloads it in a crisp one-and-a-half-minutes. Not only that, but it could have come straight from Reign in Blood. “And Darkness Brings the Light” is something else entirely. It’s a seven-minute piece that transitions from The Haunted-like intro to a sinister main riff reminiscent of Volcano/Now, Diabolical-era Satyricon. It’s a strange song but has just enough going for it to make it worthwhile.
But, for all the similarities from album to album, the biggest difference between Extinction and its predecessors is the heavy bass presence. It’s always been there, but Tom Richards’ bass is bigger than it’s ever been before. The best examples are its thunderous character on “Conflict Revelation” and the title track. It crashes through these tunes with little care for your eardrums or your shitty car stereo. The bass is one of the best parts of this album and gives it a character the previous two lacked. The band has always had the beefy guitars, the earth-quaking drums, and powerful vocals to match their aggression. But a rumbling bass brought to the front of the mix is icing on the cake.
Extinction is another stellar outing from this Australian foursome and it shows a band excelling at consistency. But, for how good it is, it’s not enough to start tossing 4.0s and 5.0s around. And, honestly, I prefer the band’s previous album to this one. The bass presence and cohesive album flow of Extinction are more than worth it, but Proliferation is a knock-down, drag-out record that keeps me engaged from beginning to end. Just the same, Harlott‘s newest album is right up there with Power Trip‘s newest crossover disc as my pick for meanest thrash record of the year. As with all Harlott records, Extinction hits hard and doesn’t let up until you’re battered and bruised from head to toe.