Raider – Trial by Chaos Review

After producing one of 2022’s greatest pieces of album art, Mitchell Nolte is back with a vengeance. The fantasy scene that graces Raider’s Trial by Chaos depicts a lone warrior battling a sea of dragons, snakes, and cephalopods attacking from every direction. Violent, claustrophobic, and extravagant, it’s a perfect match for the music. Canada’s Raider specializes in an explosive brand of death-thrash that keeps the dial turned to 11 at all times. Despite the fantastic art, I only had middling hopes for Trial by Chaos, a sophomore self-release in a crowded genre from a band I hadn’t heard before. I should’ve remembered the old musical adage: always judge an album by its cover. Like Nolte’s art, Trial by Chaos is a brutal triumph.

Prepare your earballs for a world of angry thrash. Trial by Chaos’ frenzied riffs inhabit the wondrous deathy fringe of thrash metal, echoing late golden era bands like Demolition Hammer and descendants like Revocation. But that isn’t all. When Trial by Chaos settles into a simpler death metal routine with fewer unhinged twists and turns, it recalls Morbid Angel. Conversely, well-placed melodic leads allow Raider to veer close to Skeletonwitch territory when they so desire. In short, Raider does a lot. But their goal is single-minded: like Nolte’s dragons, Raider surrounds you with an onslaught of monstrous riffs. Trial by Chaos is endless fun, but it’s not for the faint of heart.

Trial by Chaos’ density and unrelenting speed won me over. The sheer number of ideas on display is ear-popping, and each one disembowels you from a different angle. In that sense, this album reminds me of my first time with Morbid Saint’s Spectrum of Death. The simple death metal sections of Trial by Chaos are plain wholesome fun, often with enough embellishments to avoid sounding brainless (“Rite of Conquest”). The frequent technically demanding segments are just as exciting, like the acrobatic eight-measure-long main riff of “New Dominion.” Predictably, the climaxes land with a metric shitton of force as well. The seething vocals deserve a lot of credit on this front, which I rarely say about extreme metal. Ranging between a threatening rasp and a Glen-Benton-style roar, Angelo Bonaccorso’s storytelling transforms sections like the hopeless ending of “New Dominion” and the earworm chorus of “Labyrinth” into emotive show-stoppers. Raider’s refusal to dial it back is their greatest strength, but it presents some challenges. Trial by Chaos is so dense that it’s difficult to keep up with, and I sometimes find myself losing track of riffs mid-song. After the album ends, I vividly remember getting curb-stomped, but can’t always recall each blow. Still, Trial by Chaos’ barrage of energy leaves me dumbfounded after every listen.

Trial by Chaos is as dense as a black hole, but Raider’s songwriting chops prevent it from imploding. Raider’s clever rhythms serve as a foreshadowing tool and as superglue holding songs together, like the triplets scattered throughout “Rite of Conquest” and the booming three-chord sequences of “Devour the Darkness.” Angus Pike’s drums roar to life when they’re needed most, adding thunderous emphasis to climactic moments (“Fearless”). Refusing to be outmatched, guitarists Gabe Rosa and Bennett Smith expertly use two or three guitar parts to add intensity and variety to their richly layered blitzkrieg (“Juggernaut Cerebrivore”). This meticulous writing makes the album a cohesive front and an absolute pleasure. Indeed, I often find myself most excited for Raider’s exhilarating 180-degree turns, like the incredible transition into the last guitar solo on “Labyrinth.” Most of Trial by Chaos’ 39-minute runtime flies by. However, the last two tracks, which are the longest, don’t hold up as well as the first six. Especially given how in-your-face Raider’s style is, trimming some repetition here would help the record feel punchier and less drawn-out. Even so, this is a nitpick; no song on Trial by Chaos tempts me to hit the skip button.

It’s no wonder that Redefining Darkness Records immediately picked up Raider upon the release of Trial by Chaos. Given my already high opinion of Redefining Darkness, it’s a perfect match. Trial by Chaos is the sound of a band that worked night and day to dot every i, cross every t, and craft an impregnable death-thrash attack. More plainly, although it goes a wee bit overboard, it’s one of the most fun albums I’ve heard this year. Raider has put me a day behind on my tax return, but I couldn’t have asked for a better excuse.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320kbps mp3
Label: Self-Released
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: April 7th, 2023

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