When a band drops a successful debut, the weight off their shoulders must be akin to cracking the top level of a pro sport. A million and one obstacles overcome, plus proving to the world that your shit doesn’t totally stink? Must feel nice. Not that I have firsthand experience—producing these bad boys is more a nice session on the can than a cold, rainy night in Stoke. But like writing, music needs to have consistency. Reviewing their 2016 debut, Jean-Luc Ricard suggested that Septagon might have a modern classic in them, but Deadhead Syndicate wasn’t it. Compared to Apocalyptic Rhymes, Deadhead Syndicate is Rust in Peace.
Despite the genre roulette suggested by Septagon‘s charter of Atlantean Kodex, Lanfear, and Them members, Apocalyptic Rhymes skews far more thrash and speed than anything power, doom, or Grier-bait. Their debut magic should have survived intact, as the best riffs on Deadhead Syndicate crawled out of thrash’s many orifices. So why then is Apocalyptic Rhymes, an album arguably more thrash than its predecessor, such a chore? Is it Atlantean Kodex frontman Markus Becker’s uneven intonations, evoking everything from a knockoff Joey Belladonna (“The Weight of the World”) to a half-melodic blend of Dave Mustaine and Protest the Hero‘s Rody Walker (“Home, Sweet Hell”) to “The Unfathomable Evil” and its dice-roll of stock power influences? Yes, yes, yes; the vox suck big time, a major issue given the album’s vocal-forwardness. How about the axes of Markus Ullrich (Lanfear, Them) and Stef Binnig-Gollub? Mainline Ambien, absent hooks, originality, or weight. “Home, Sweet Hell” offers some hellacious soloing, but its Megadeth voiceover imitation drags it down. An Anthrax influence begets “Cosmic Outrage” with the best riff on the record, but even that must battle Becker’s car crash lyrics for space. Speaking of, if you need one reason why thrash has been on the decline since the 80s,1 it’s that socio-political lyrics were slightly more nuanced than “Sound the alarm, there’s a picture on Facebook of a politician eating a cat.”
The penultimate “Nothingness Awaits” is the first (only?) song worth full-throated endorsement, a Bronx cheer in a sea of boos. It boggles the mind that in two years, Septagon went from stellar songs like “Unwanted Company” and “Secret Silver Panorama Machine” to dribble like “Make a Stand” that was musically and lyrically trite three decades ago. Between “Cosmic Outrage” and “Nothingness Awaits,” Ullrich displays enough righteous riffage to make me question what happened on the rest of the record. The majority of the album is so forgettable that the label may need a reminder to release it. When this cyclonic rift of suck lines up correctly, we’re treated to the very fucking dire “P.O.T.U.S.A.”2 The music is a snooze, at most. The lyrics are as base, reductive, and idiotic as possible, a bold-faced imitation of thrash’s long history of political takes, written as if DJT is cutting himself to every insult. It’s embarrassing to think that this shares a tradition with the likes of “Agent Orange” and “Disposable Heroes.” I can do nothing but think of one of my favorite Lich King songs: “It’s too bad you’re in a metal band, because nothing will change… How ‘bout you write a riff and just cut the shit.”
The instrument tones work really well, but often times the record feels really thin and exacerbates the singing quality issues. It’s not a total loss, however. The bass lines pop when given a shot on “Home, Sweet Hell;” the drums sound nice, though faint; the guitar tones propel the music forward with just the right balance of meat and sinew. And as regrettable as they are, Becker’s lyrics cut through the instrumentation clearly, and the solos—the quality of which are thankfully beyond reproach—swing into center stage as if they’ve been there the whole time. Would that anything resembling good metal join them.
I’ve listened to many bad records, but very few have met the AMG Style Guide’s “charging your lasers” guidance for low scores. I intended to scrub my memory of Apocalyptic Rhymes as soon as Steel slapped his peel of approval on this review, but perhaps I should hold on to it as a reminder of what it takes to piss me off in 2018. Do Septagon have a modern classic in them? Hell if I know. But Apocalyptic Rhymes sure as shit isn’t it.3
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Cruz Del Sur Music
Websites: septagonthrash.bandcamp.com | septagon666.blogspot.com | facebook.com/septagonband
Release Dates: Digital: 11.09.2018 | EU: 2018.11.09 | NA: 11.23.2018