Vindicator – Communal Decay [Things You Might Have Missed 2021]

Some of you may remember Vindicator from nearly a decade ago when I reviewed their record United We Fall. For my money, Vindicator was always underrated re-thrash, notwithstanding my concern about their collective understanding of monetary policy. Nearly 10 years later, the brothers Stown (Vic on guitars and vox and Jesse on drums) have reunited to bring us a new slab of post-Bay Area re-thrash called Communal Decay. Joining them is bassist Ed Stephens, and replacing James Larue (who has since joined White Wizzard), they’ve grabbed Frosthelm’s Billy Zahn. What ensues is not surprising. But it is teeming with excellent riffs, has a great live feel, and it clocks in at a short and sweet 31-minute run-time. Break out that PBR, folks, we’re reviewin’ thrash!

That Communal Decay isn’t surprising, doesn’t mean it’s lacking. From start to finish, every track features the kinds of riffing that convinced me a decade ago that Vindicator was the real deal. Though it starts a bit slow—”Hymns of Oblivion” isn’t a traditional opening ripper—Communal Decay figuratively and literally picks up speed as it develops. At their best, thrashers like “Kill the Rich,” “Life Support” and closer “Spiders” feature a heavy a slab of Megadeth influenced riffing while Vic barks over top in his intense and characteristic monotone. These dynamics are complemented by solid retro-solos from Zahn that lose very little from Larue’s excellent work from United We Fall.

In fact, the guitar work and arrangements on Communal Decay are the best part. Between solid soloing and great riffing, you can tell that there was an approach to writing that really relied on the interplay between Zahn and Stown. Tracks like “Oxidative Stress” and “Social Schism” find the band rocking out beautiful harmonies that reek of Rust in Peace or even a bit of Iron Maiden. When combined with a rhythm section that riffs just as well as the guitarists, there’s an intensity on Communal Decay that is just undeniable.

Communal Decay sounds a bit hesitant, weirdly. I know that the road has been hard for these guys and that sucks, because they’ve always had the riffs and moxie to be a premiere name in thrash. The riffs here are great, but the combination of the slower intro track1 and a production job that sounds at times like it’s living in clip, can sometimes work together to rob Communal Decay of its intensity. This can be compounded by the fact that the recording has a strong live feel while lacking the raw punch of older recordings due to its modern DR7. The live feel cuts both ways, however, because it contributes to what I love about Communal Decay. While the production could be crisper and less crunched—which would help the rhythm section a lot—the performances have an authenticity that just feels the way good thrash should feel.

This is the kind of independent release that the Things You Might Have Missed series was created to cover. Vindicator has rocked out eight quality thrash tracks through 30 minutes that features some exemplary material. It ain’t perfect, but I also can’t help but feel like they’re just throwing off the rust after a nearly ten-year break. Still, whatever small complaints I have, I’ve been listening to this a ton since October and I strongly recommend it. Buy this, enjoy it and support underground metal.2 And I hope this is just the beginning of round two for Vindicator. Communal Decay may rule, but it also feels like it presages something even better.

Tracks to Check Out: “Kill the Rich,” “Life Support” (check out the harmonized guitar lick at 3 minutes, just fucking awesome), “Oxidative Stress,” “Social Schism,” and “Spiders”

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Which also has a verse riff that really reminds me of “…and Justice for All,” risking sounding a bit too close to the source material immediately.
  2. Also, get a shirt with the best fucking thrash metal logo in the biz.
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