One of the most criminally overlooked thrash albums from the glorious 80s was a little gem called Brutal Destruction by unsung Belgian act, Cyclone. It had a great balance of anger, aggression, melody and hooks and I still go back to it some 30 years later. The band went on to release another solid album, then vanished. Out of the fall of that and other Belgian acts like Decadence arose crossover thrashers, Trouble Agency. They released their Moneycracy debut way back in 2006 then, like Belgian bands are wont to do, they took a powder. 2018 sees their unlikely return to thrashery with Suspected, and what you get is essentially 80s style speed with a punky edge and grit. Easy parallels can be drawn to Sacred Reich, D.R.I. and newer acts like Havok, and sadly, the band brings nothing new to the dead horse of thrash, nor is there any trace of my beloved Cyclone in their sound. Double bummer.
That’s not to say there isn’t some fun stuff to be found here. Opener “Pawn of God” is 100% straight up 80s thrash with a slight hardcore edge and attitude. The chunky riffs roll and rip along in satisfying ways aided by classic thrash vocals and solos that fly this way and that with reckless excess. And what’s not to like about a well done thrash tune with Exodus influences adroitly incorporated? The answer is the addition of a big Metallica influence, and I don’t mean musically so much as not knowing when to stop a song. Yep, things run a bit too long, and that’s the beginning of a disorder that will eventually bring Suspected low over the course of its equally too long 53 minute runtime. While chestnuts like “Survival of the Fittest” and “Tears of Blood” are solid, by-the-numbers thrashers with energy and sufficient scrotal wattage, the band just can’t seem to quit while they’re ahead, habitually adding 1-2 extraneous minutes to every track, thereby making every song feel overdrawn on the way out the door.
The only time they don’t commit this cardinal sin of thrash composition is when they add 4 minutes of attention draining fluff, as they do on album low point, “Sad.” This is an inauspicious choice indeed, as “Sad” is the worst of the litter and would be a total loss at 4 minutes. At nearly 8, it becomes a real album killer, full of cringe-inducing lyrics, patience-straining, goodwill-draining repetition and an unshakable feeling of malaise and futility. The album does partially recover with upbeat, angry cuts like “And Then You Kneel” and the solid title track, but in the end it’s too little, too late. Even closing uber-punky anti-government screed “Banksters” runs 2-3 minutes longer than any uber-punky anti-government screed should.
The band is certainly talented enough. Didier Vancoppenolle and Larry Rostyne are able guitarists with sufficient chops, and Kevin Nolis is a decent thrash vocalists with a nicely raspy bark and snarl. They have the tools to pull off compelling thrash and do so in fits and spurts, but consistency is not the band’s copilot and restraint was never a member of their writing staff. For every tight, biting riff, there’s a counterbalancing misstep, be it awful lyrics (“Back Off,” “Sad”), generic structures (“Collateral Damage”) or just letting things meander too goddamn long (see all). I will note however, that the bass-work of Simon Mouawad is fairly audible throughout, and for that they get well-deserved props.
I doubt Suspected will get much notice outside Brussels, and while it’s not terrible, it’s nowhere near essential or recommended listening, even for 80s thrash fiends like myself. Instead I strongly suggest tracking down Cyclone‘s albums, especially Brutal Destruction. Sometimes the roots of Brussels sprouts just taste better than the plant itself.