Crunch time has arrived. The year end scramble is upon us, so when it comes down to formulating our precious end of year lists, now is generally the time where we look back, reflect on, and play catch up with the ridiculous amount of metal albums released over the past year. The task is overwhelming yet rewarding in a year that has given us plenty of quality albums, even if there’s been a shortage of releases that have absolutely floored me. Yet when I look back, there’s been a notable lack of quality thrash, aside from the weirdo avant thrash of Voivod‘s latest. Maybe my ears have been directed in the wrong places, but the genre in which I cut my teeth on many years ago continues to largely disappoint. So with a flicker of fleeting optimism I jumped on the chance to check out unheralded Italian thrashers Revolutio on their debut platter, Vagrant. But how does it fare? And should you give a shit?
Well, Revolutio are certainly not going to turn the thrash scene upside down, nor will they threaten the structuring of year-end lists. Nor is Vagrant an uninteresting album, despite its flaws. Vagrant is quite a diverse thrash platter with an adventurous songwriting spirit and solid musicianship. Revolutio label themselves a post-apocalyptic alternative metal band, rather than a thrash act, though the thrash flavors, of the old school and modern varieties, are well-represented throughout the album. The opening soundscapes of intro track “Aftermath” sets the apocalyptic tone with doomsday sirens, eerie soundscapes, and distant explosions before launching into one of the album’s stronger cuts, “Meek and the Bold.” It’s a lively slice of thrash, loaded with beefy, energetic riffs, and a gruff and passionate vocal performance from Maurizio Di Timoteo.
Similarly, “What Breaks Inside” rips into a blazing thrash assault, and despite some forced heavier vox, it’s another dynamic performance from Di Timoteo, and the song certainly gets the adrenaline pumping with its urgent clip and fiery guitar-work. The musicianship is impressive across the board, and though the songwriting is a mixed bag, there’s some nice stuff going on here, especially the dueling guitar-work of Luca Barbieri and Carlos Reyes Vergara. Meanwhile, Di Timoteo’s vocals are both a strength and a weakness to the material. His diverse delivery offers ample variation, but his shifting styles are a tad hit or miss, with some cheesy melodramatic croons and the aforementioned forced roars the obvious weak links, taking the gloss off his powerful mid-ranged growls and snarls.
Vagrant becomes increasingly adventurous as it progresses, but the song-writing shifts don’t always come off favorably. “Silver Dawn” is a strange and sometimes awkward semi-ballad that doesn’t quite pull together. The song is promptly followed by “Requiem,” another slower, rock tune, featuring ample 80s metal pomp. Unfortunately, the cheese factor is a little over-the-top and the album’s earlier pulsating energy and speedy, chunky forays are dulled as the momentum slows and the songwriting begins to stumble under the band’s overreaching ambition. Penultimate track “Daydream” rights the wobbly ship slightly with its potent and weirdly all-over-the-map structure, increased aggression, and solid riffs. Inexplicably, the album concludes with fourteen-minute closer “The Great Silence,” which proceeds to waste everyone’s time with its repetitive windy soundscapes, essentially a long-winded, and intended to be profound sequel to the intro, signalling the aftermath of some end of the world disaster.
With a very limited internet presence, Revolutio has managed to craft a professional sounding, adventurous, and confident debut album, showcasing a young band with the balls to take some songwriting risks. That in itself is commendable and I can imagine Vagrant finding a certain audience with their chunky brand of thrash and groove metal. Unfortunately the haphazard material misses the mark too often to make a hearty recommendation, but hopefully Revolutio can iron out the kinks and capitalize on their potential on future releases. Until then, Vagrant is a curious and occasionally perplexing oddity that misfires too often despite some promising elements.