Take a look at this Donald Trump inspired t-shirt released in early 2016. That was the first time that I had heard of Virginia’s crossover-thrash outfit Municipal Waste since their 2012 solid, but uninspired album The Fatal Feast (Waste in Space). While they released a couple of splits and EPs during the four years in-between, it was that stunt—a year later apparently more relevant than ever—that brought the (metal) public’s spotlight back on them. Yet, shenanigans such as that one coupled with the band’s dormancy and a persona burdened by a forced sense of absurdism and tired jokes convinced me that, musically speaking, a once exciting prospect had worn out their welcome. They would surely never recreate anything as good as their genuinely delightful records Waste ‘Em All or Hazardous Mutation. Yet, listening and relistening to their fifth full-length Slime and Punishment makes me think that they might have indeed rediscovered their mojo.
Clocking under half an hour and spreading over 14 songs, Slime and Punishment carries the punch of a bitter pill of cyanide swallowed with a shot of homemade Russian methanol. It’s an unrelenting and unrelentingly loud affair that moves at breakneck speeds from tasty riff to tastier riff, through crunchy breaks into grindcore driven passages. In such a constellation, “Breathe Grease” becomes the perfect introduction, with buzzing guitars carving the way for a slightly slower yet equally aggressive middle section. It’s here that the band first showcases their knack for juggling with a bunch of styles, mixing the raw aggression of punk and hardcore with thrash’s infectious, bulbous riffing. Sooner than you know the track is done and dusted, pushed out by the complete chaos of the 49 seconds long rollercoaster called “Enjoy the Night.” But it’s the whole album and not just these two songs that rushes through like a steamroller on crack, leaving perplexed ears and minds behind, inviting yet another spin.
The best songs are scattered throughout the record—they come and go in the blink of an eye, the longest of them just under three minutes in length. Yet there’s an especially spicy sequence that starts with “Shrednecks.” True to its name, it’s an incredibly fast and primitive tune that thrashes around brutally and is all the more satisfying because of its directness. Meanwhile, “Poison the Preacher” leads the way with a convoluted, evil sounding riff, only to turn into the speed metal of “Bourbon Discipline” and the standout anti-hymn “Parole Violators.” While the latter part of the record, especially “Excessive Celebration” and “Under the Waste Command,” might become a bit tired, the songwriting stays on a respectable level even as it gives way to a feeling of having it heard all before. But it’s to be expected with Municipal Waste not straying far, if at all, from their own records and sources of inspiration such as Anthrax, Suicidal Tendencies, D.R.I., and Nuclear Assault.
Alongside bolder songwriting, a bigger sound, and a continuation of their hilarious sense of humor (/s), the group’s musicianship feels more incisive than in a long time. Tony Foresta’s gravelly vocals and collectively shouted choruses soar over Ryan Waste’s and debutant Nick Poulos’s roaringly tuned guitars, while Dave Witte’s chaotic drumming and Land Phil’s dirty, bulky bass lines give the band’s sound a certain wet fullness. The energetic and physically intimidating presence of their music is aided by a very sharp and dynamic production and mastering. It provides the music with a surprisingly crisp medium, with each instrument well-defined and well-placed in the mix, without sacrificing the homogeneity or force of their general attack. While not perfect, it’s as good as can be expected from a re-thrash record.
As the album ends, you might notice a strange taste in your mouth. It’a taste of familiarity, of sounds chewed on and digested ages before, of a mood and atmosphere that belong to a different era. This anachronism becomes both the greatest asset and the greatest drawback to Municipal Waste‘s style. We like them because of what they are, but simultaneously we acknowledge that they can never be anything more than that. And that’s OK. And that’s all right. It’s what we expect. Here’s to hoping that they never reinvent themselves.