Whenever a band like Terrorizer drops an album, I always wonder if their material gets by on individual merit or on legacy alone. World Downfall is rightly regarded as one of the first and greatest examples of death/grind and has remained a staple in any worthy metalhead’s collection. Unfortunately, nearly thirty years after that seminal record, the re-formed band’s quality has been spotty at best. Many consider this to be down to the absence of the sadly departed Jesse Pintado, leaving drumming legend Pete Sandoval as the only remaining original member. Now the band have renewed themselves once again for fourth album, Caustic Attack, by dipping liberally into the Monstrosity camp. Not only are bass and vocal duties handled by Sam Molina, but perhaps more importantly, all guitars are now expertly slung by Lee Harrison. The results are caustic, indeed.
There will, of course, be those who will never entertain a new Terrorizer record simply because it isn’t World Downfall. But for those of us who enjoy increased clarity, we can perhaps examine the situation with a little more honesty. World Downfall is a great album, but it was also one of the first of its kind and is thus remembered as revolutionary. How well it would fare in today’s saturated landscape is perhaps a different matter. As a fan of Monstrosity, I have always considered Lee Harrison an unsung hero. His tone and playing style is immediately recognizable – a trait few can honestly lay claim to. As such, his contribution is immediately familiar but also overtly deathly in nature, and people will either love it, or bitch about it until the next album.
The interesting thing about Caustic Attack is that it seems to be rather aware of how death metal dominant it is. As a foil, it often has to remind itself to grind and the results are mixed. While the central bulk of the album manages to meld comprehensively grinding verses with Harrison’s pristine death riffs, there is a collection of fleeting tracks included presumably to qualify the grind label. These brief blusters are blast-happy frenzies, but are generally characterless. The album begins with the cyclonic “Turbulence,” which eventually leads to “Invasion” and it’s almost impossible to tell the two apart. This is an issue which has plagued sub-par grindcore for decades. Although there are exceptions to the rule, such as the vicious “Poison Gas Tsunami,” the real meat of the record can be found in the long-form songs, an area where Harrison shines. His ability to litter psychotic thundering with tight trem-picking and an ear for hooks galvanizes some of the material with a fierce memorability. “Devastate” and “Crisis” are almost entirely death metal tracks, whereas “Sharp Knives” and “Failed Assassin” better combine the genres, with each cut littered with an array of huge palm-muted breakdowns.
It’s almost redundant to comment on Sandoval’s drumming at this point; he’s unstoppable and probably always will be. Similarly, Harrison’s honed musical habits affords Terrorizer their strongest sense of identity in decades, but it’s clearly defined by Monstrosity‘s sound. This is the album’s biggest issue. Although the riffs are the best since World Downfall, he’s a death metal guitarist at heart and occasionally the grind aspect of the band feels like an afterthought. Caustic Attack is also in need of a little trimming. This, coupled with Molina’s repetitive bark, actually exacerbates the illusion of length, drawing extra attention to some of the more unnecessary songs.
There is nothing on Caustic Attack that truly warrants cruel critique, and there are more than a few songs I will most certainly harvest for a playlist. “The Downtrodden” and closer, “Wasteland,” are particularly excellent, despite the latter’s bizarre silent final minute. Terrorizer comes with a hefty heritage, and Caustic Attack bears it better than any of its post-millennium predecessors. Harrison’s main vehicle may loom a little large on occasion, but I’ll choose him over David Vincent in the line-up any day. If the band opts to maintain the current roster but with a more distinct frontman and some self-editing, I’ll happily continue to smash my neck to pieces to this legendary act’s dulcet tones. Either that, or I’ll just play World Downfall and In Dark Purity back-to-back – whatever gets the job done.