Thunderslave – Unchain the Night Review

UPDATE: It wasn’t until after I’d already written this review that I discovered that the release has been cancelled by the label. Apparently, the band recently liquored themselves up and literally desecrated a cemetery.1  While this is standard behavior in the artwork and lyrics of death metal, productive members of human society are highly encouraged to avoid this sort of thing in real life. I debated pulling the review after this rather shocking revelation, but have decided that it would be wrong to hide my feelings about an album of this quality simply because of the immorality of its creators. Plus, I need to find some way to lower my yearly average. I want you to know my true feelings about the record, so I didn’t rewrite the review after finding out that the release had been laid to rest despite the enormous joke potential of doing so.

I really should know better by now. I thought that I’d learned early in my career as an unpaid music journalist, back when I was known simply as Nameless_n00b_11, that Steel Druhm and his gifts are not to be trusted. Don’t get me wrong. He’s a fair master, to be sure, but he also has a tendency to entertain himself by being overwhelmingly cruel. During one of our recent socially distant AMG staff Zoom chats, he told me that he had a promo picked out just for me, one that “sounds like Skelator if they actually tried.” I recovered surprisingly quickly from this subterraneanly low-blow, and said, “Wow, it must be a 5.0 if what you say is true.” I left the chat and cautiously, yet optimistically, perused the promo sump and found my prize: Unchain the Night by Mexico’s Thunderslave. I played it immediately, because I just had to know, “Could this possibly be better than Skelator?”

Iron Maiden with a side of speed metal is the core Thunderslave sound, and for the most part it sounds relatively decent — musically. Harmonized guitars and classic metal rhythms litter the tracks, giving them a pleasing headbangability despite the album’s major shortcomings — we’ll get to those in a minute. Single “Maniac” is a perfect example of everything that’s right and wrong about Unchain the Night. A galloping rhythm drives the song forward and a decent solo section will make fans of traditional heavy metal feel right at home, but these positive aspects will be enjoyed only if the listener can get past the album’s primary flaw. And this is a big “if.”

The vocals are just terrible. Now, I know, I know, some of you (wrongly) hate the vocals of Skelator‘s Jason Conde-Houston, but his unique approach is filled with power and passion and fills the the band’s tracks with incredible energy. Thunderslave‘s Carlos Wild, on the other hand, uses a falsetto squeal 75-80% of the time and it works exactly never. The fun heavy-meets-hair metal of opener “Lightning Strikes” is ruined by his piercing shrieks and “Lucifer Morning Star” contains a chorus that is almost unbelievably atrocious. I’m a sucker for a great falsetto scream, but this is just bad, and the blight on the record isn’t even necessary. On “Heavy Metal Master” and “Warriors of the Night,” the band slows things down to a hard rock groove, and Wild’s more restrained vocals — think modern James Hetfield on the former — are actually relatively competent, rendering these tracks far more listenable than their counterparts.

The production leaves a lot to be desired as well. The drums sound as if they were recorded from two houses down, robbing the record of a lot of potential power. The guitars and bass sound good, and this is extremely fortunate as they happen to be the album’s one strength. It took a lot of positive self-talk to work up the courage to press “play” on the promo each time I listened, and the guitar parts are decent enough that my brain was able to protect itself at times by focusing on the music and tuning out the vocals. This is usually the part where I recommend tracks to listen to, but I don’t feel like I can do so here and maintain a clear conscience.

I am appalled and offended that Steel would even jokingly suggest that Thunderslave inhabits the same realm as the mighty Skelator, but I’m also impressed by the depths to which he’s descended here just to torture his favorite writer2. There is certainly some raw potential in this band, but they will need to refine their sound to focus on their natural groove, improve their production, and lose that goddamn falsetto. If you’re looking to be struck by lightning, I suggest you kneel before a different heavy metal master.

Rating: 1.0/5.0
DR: 10 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: No Remorse Records
Releases Worldwide: Never — R.I.P.

Show 2 footnotes

  1. The band photo is highly suspicious and far less charming now.
  2. Everybody needs a hobby. – Steel
« »