The dusty plains of the 2018 thrash scene is a distant memory as we plunge forward with scary rapidness to the pointy end of the year. Thrash hasn’t exactly set the metal scene ablaze in 2019, however there’s at least been a string of solid and noteworthy thrash platters, such as killer albums from War Curse, Critical Defiance, Euphoria Ω, Inculter and Exumer. Greek stalwarts Suicidal Angels return with another retro inspired batch of thrash anthems on seventh album, Years of Aggression. Although never quite a band to wow me, from my scattered experience with their extensive body of work, their meat and potatoes brand of thrash, channeled through a euro lens, offers a headbang friendly dose of solid thrash. I must of overlooked 2016’s Division of Blood album, as it was 2014’s Divide and Conquer that I last spent time with, a solid if slightly underwhelming follow-up to their impressive 2012 album, Bloodbath.
In the big scheme of things not much has changed in the Suicidal Angels camp and these tried and true thrashers sounds predictably familiar. Yet despite the predictable format and obvious nods towards classic acts like Exodus, and Slayer, Suicidal Angels are a solid and dependable act, with just enough character to avoid dissolving into a derivative rehash of classic bands from the ’80s golden era of thrash dominance. Perhaps it’s their endlessly solid riffcraft, ability to pen a hooky thrash anthem, subtle euro influences, and the distinctive, accented bark of vocalist/guitarist Nick Melissourgos. Either way, Years of Aggression offers little in the way of innovation or truly groundbreaking or jaw-dropping material, but makes headway with gritty execution, solid writing and boundless energy.
Simple yet addictive, “Endless War” gets the ball rolling and serves its purpose as a fist-pumping opener, a solid exhibit of technical prowess and hooky riffs. Throughout the album Suicidal Angels display a solid array of dynamics and workmanlike thrash tunes. From the sprightly speed and aggression of “Born of Hate” and “D.I.V.A,” to the eloquent, melodeath inspired “Bloody Ground,” and tough, streetwise crunch of later album highlight “The Roof of Rats,” Years of Aggression may not offer many genuine surprises, but manages to mix up the delivery enough to keep the momentum rolling.
Lengthy closer “The Sacred Dance of Chaos” showcases a measured, adventurous and atmospheric approach, incorporating acoustic passages, leaden riffs, and a melodic mid-paced approach with reasonable results. On the sonic front, Years of Aggression possesses crisp, modern production values that fits the band’s sound well, boasting well rounded, punchy tones and even allowing moments for the bass to breathe, without sounding overly sleek and glossy. Really there’s nothing particularly wrong Years of Aggression, it’s a well played, executed and moderately entertaining thrash album that continues the band’s trail of reliably solid albums. However, collectively the songwriting falls short of the higher standards I was hoping for and some minor bloat adds unnecessary fat to the album.
Ever sat up at night to wish for a second coming of thrash? A new dawn recapturing the special and timeless era of the genre’s ’80s heyday. Well, where there’s life, there’s hope. While Suicidal Angels aren’t about to lead the charge, they sure as shit can pen a decent thrash tune. Overall, Years of Aggression doesn’t sound stagnant nor does it elevate Suicidal Angels into the modern thrash, via retro pathway, big leagues. Minor flaws and lack of truly remarkable material aside, I’ve enjoyed my time with Years of Aggression. It’s an enjoyable addition to the 2019 thrash pile, though disappointingly it falls short of higher honors.