Poltergeist – Feather of Truth

Switzerland’s Poltergeist are a better-established band than I had initially realized. Sitting pretty with 4 previous albums spreading back to 1989, they benefit from a degree of metal legitimacy, having produced music in the same decade in which thrash metal came into existence1. Following a 23-year hiatus, their 2016 comeback suitably impressed the prior AMG reviewer with their tasteful references to many of their better-known 80s contemporaries. 2020 sees their fifth full-length unveiled and it’s called Feather of Truth (a distinctly un-thrashy title). Do Poltergeist haunt in the right or wrong way?

I’m not going to bury the lede: Feather is as typical as they come for 80s-style thrash metal. It rushes from speedy, chugging riffs to frenzied, shreddy solos, via shout/sung vocals which demonstrate energy more than talent. Andre Grieder isn’t the most talented vocalist in the world; his shouting is fine but the parts where he sings lack finesse. I get that this is thrash, and finesse isn’t really thrash’s ‘thing,’ but he sounds strained. The exceptions to this are the moments which are gilded in trad metal vibrato (almost a King Diamond falsetto) on “The Godz of the Seven Rays,” which has a stronger classic metal feel in general. Otherwise, there’s no faulting the band’s instrumentation. The guitarists have chops and can shred with the best of them, while the drummer is acrobatic and commands the rhythms. Feather sounds vaguely Dark Angelic, if somewhat less heavy and less awesome.

The opener, “Time at Hand,” begins at pace. It’s immediate, in that the introduction is short, the ensuing verse is short and the chorus is short. You are directly supplied with the record’s first 2 choruses and first solo in just over 2 minutes. But across the second half, Poltergeist spread out a little more with the guitars, bridging fragments of verses and instrumental passages before building to the final chorus. This approach becomes typical of Feather. The group are clearly aiming for something slightly more technical and detailed than the usual 4-minute verse-chorus song-writing style; transitions and bridges are liberally, and sometimes cleverly, deployed to gel parts of songs, and the tracks aren’t entirely linear. I appreciate the effort but ultimately think a shorter, more direct approach would have worked better. These songs are all a minute too long, with one too many verses and solos. A more concise album would still be somewhat generic but the remainder would have had more impact.

My sum feelings are that Feather is truly okay. It has decent enough riffs. Decent enough energy. Decent enough thrash in general. But if ‘decent enough’ is all I can muster then that in itself is an issue. Thrash should not invoke ambivalence. Ambivalence is antithetical to what thrash is trying to achieve as a style; it’s supposed to be the auditory equivalent of smashing several heads together. Instead I found my head turning very easily to other distractions when the record was playing, such was my apathy. This response is exacerbated towards the end of the record as the final few tracks blur into what came before and particularly lack distinction.

Feather is meat and potatoes metal, right down to the industry standard production. I’m a long-standing hater of modern metal production, with its flat masters, boxy drums and absence of the rawer, lo-fi edge afforded to 80s metal releases. This record does nothing to assuage my opinion on this and doubles down on all of these elements, resulting in an album which is not just musically average, but average in production too. The Legacy? Ride the Lightning? Hell Awaits? They all sound fantastic with breathing room in their masters and natural, analogue recording. The chinks of musical light which slip through on Feather are dulled by the inorganic, blocky tone adopted and it only aids the sense that nothing is allowed to stand out here.

It’s impossible to call Feather a bad release. It’s perfectly serviceable thrash, the likes of which you’ve heard many times over. It’s simply the case that there’s not much here worth your time if you’re already familiar with the big names of the genre. Given that thrash is debatably the pre-eminent archetype of metal, you definitely have heard the big names, and you therefore definitely have heard things that are better than this. It’s strangely reassuring to stumble upon bands which are still active now who existed when the 80s weren’t just nostalgia, but that sense of reassurance is not enough to carry Poltergeist to a recommendation.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Massacre Records
Websites: poltergeistmetal.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/poltergeist
Releases Worldwide: July 3rd, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. Barely. – Steel
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