Thanks to the increasingly virulent strain of spurious medical staff that infect AMG, I don’t often get a chance to review the sadly diminished number of thrash acts that grace the promo bin. As it happens, thrash was my musical first love and having been fed hale and hearty on golden riffs, I will always hold a collection of bloody knuckle memories close to my heart. However, when I spotted Norway’s Vorbid alone and unmolested in the selection sewer, I knew now was my time to strike. Vorbid, and their debut, Mind, offers a progressive and distinctly technical brand of thrash, with complex rhythm structures and shred-happy solos the order of the day. With more chops than your local mad butcher, do they have that all-important song-craft to instill a lesson in violence not soon forgotten?
Progressing the output of scene latecomers, Toxik, whilst knowingly blending Dave Mustaine’s take on technical rhythm, Vorbid‘s ability can’t be questioned. Michael Eriksen wields a wicked set of riffs, flashy yet with enough scratch to pique the interests of filth-mongers like me. He and lead guitarist, Daniel Emanuelsen, insist on a perpetual forward motion of mercurial riff structures, alternating from traditional old-school bruisers to twin harmonies that wouldn’t be out of place on an Artillery record. “Zombie” assumes un-life with a forceful staccato riff before seamlessly slipping into something a little more break-neck. I, long ago, decided that rhythm is the most important thing in any song — Vorbid understand this and come equipped with a bullet belt of prime 1980’s riffing.
Each track supplies Emanuelsen ample opportunity to shred to his heart’s content. Articulated by a pervasive classic rock inflection, a penchant for technical melody elevates his soloing above mere showboating, particularly when coupled with Eriksen’s rhythm. “If There’s Evil (There’s People)” and “Invention Intervention” offer dramatic leads and a more restricted, emotive exhibition, respectively. At first glance, Mind is pretty great; instrumentally unquestionable and with plenty of teeth. But Vorbid make the rather egregious error of focusing on the micro at the direct expense of the macro. At 5 songs long, Mind seems a short listen, but the final and title track tips the scales at almost 24 minutes… Undeniably, the song is a technical clinic, shifting with a multitude of fluctuations in time signature and pace, but it lacks any structure. Bass interludes and acoustic breaks segment the movements but, truthfully, I can barely remember a second of it – what this means is, despite an initial clutch of quality material, I can’t listen to half of the album, which retrospectively makes Mind and its namesake something of a chore.
Eriksen’s sure to be divisive vocals are the very definition of one-dimensional. The axe-man dusts his riffs with a high-pitched livid scream, which never deviates and whose patterns aren’t nearly as memorable as the guitar lines. They also don’t feature that much, and I’m left to wonder if the record may or may not have been preferable had it been entirely instrumental. Fortunately, Mind does get the production right. While the guitars play center-stage in the mix with a deliciously retro sound, Jonas Tellefsen’s bass is almost equally as prominent, accentuating the agile pulsing, which is never content to simply keep time. “To Mega Therion” — which has nothing to do with the Celtic Frost record — truly benefits from the rounded production, as the album’s most aggressive piece goes out of its way to kill on command.
Vorbid are outrageously skilled, and to pretend otherwise would be ludicrous. The album’s first and most traditionally structured half is packed with great riffs and searing leads, but even then walks a slightly unstable line between the minutia and the whole. Progressing something as one-track-minded as thrash has always been a tad fraught, and Mind ironically proves why. That said, I will continue to keep my eye on these Norwegians as it’s hard to believe that musicians so able don’t have something worthwhile in their veins. Until then, I’ll remain satisfied with a redux a little more terminal.