Titties, rippling muscles, a motorcycle, and a horde of miscreants — what’s not to love about that artwork? Add in a promo blurb billing Weapönizer as a band for fans of everything from Deströyer 666 to The Road Warrior and I’m more curious than a 12-year-old boy outside a sleazy gentlemen’s club. This quartet hail from Denver and have been churning out material pretty consistently since their 2009 formation, releasing a couple demos and splits as well as a 2012 self-titled debut. Sophomore full-length Lawless Age sees the band continuing their rowdy, cutthroat brand of blackened thrash, but are they the true lords of the wasteland or just mere farts in the wind? Strap on that machine gun and hop in your V8 Interceptor, because the only way to find out is to dive right in!
And interestingly enough, what’s immediately apparent upon doing so is that Weapönizer actually have a pretty unique sound going on. Imagine a punkier and bouncier Aura Noir, or a Deströyer 666 that mixes blasting flurries with beats pulled straight from the Discharge playbook. Upon further research, this punky edge isn’t too surprising given that guitarist J.D. Kelly and drummer Mike O’Connor are also members of sleazeball deathpunk act Nekrofilth. The influence is obvious on tracks like opener “Malefactor” and early highlight “Rattenkrieg,” whose riffs tear-ass like a post-apocalyptic biker gang and bob along with a frothy nastiness culled straight from the Deep Tracts of Hell.
Though I wouldn’t describe this music as “frantic,” Weapönizer have a certain battering looseness about them that makes Lawless Age feel like a runaway shopping cart with the wheels falling off.1 Coupled with the sometimes wonky and angular riffing, the album possesses both a garage-y charm and a surprising sense of originality. Also notable is the group’s ability to mesh black metal and thrash more seamlessly than many of their peers. Tracks like “Lawless Age” and “Hellbound” recklessly move between crunchy power chords and bouts of grim Norwegian blasting without blinking an eye, while other cuts reinvent their thrash riffs by first playing them traditionally and then tremolo picking them with devilish glee. Add in the coarse, venomous bellowing of vocalist/bassist Jordan Rex and some colorful and blistering guitar solos, and you have an album that should be turning my schwantz into a pillar of iron.
So why not a higher rating? Problem is, many of these songs are built around main riffs that, while enjoyable, simply aren’t strong enough to leave that much of an impact. There’s not even a need to point out individual songs because there’s really no bad or even weak ones here — it’s just that even the strongest tracks wouldn’t even be worth mentioning if included on a record of a superior black-thrash band. Considering that the band’s closing cover of “World War II” by British punk band English Dogs is one of the most memorable tracks on the album, you know there’s something of an issue. Nothing here reaches the epic grandeur of Deströyer 666, the frantic bloodthirst of Aura Noir, or even the speed metal barn-burning of Midnight. In a way, Weapönizer feel like they’ve found their niche, but haven’t quite come up with the riffs that would allow them to dominate it.
Still, kudos to the band for pacing the album well, as the doomy, twisted opening of “Vulture” offers a neat (if brief) down-tempo respite early in the runtime. Likewise, the guitar tone has a crisp and satisfying bite, the mix is well-balanced while retaining an edge raw enough to induce tetanus, and the late-album tracks keep the pedal to the metal by featuring barreling predatory lunges (“Gangrene”) and riotous shouts of the song title over delightfully thrashy progressions (“Iron Clad Exiles”). Ultimately, at 29 minutes and nine tracks in length, Lawless Age is a quick and fun release that’s sure to please fans looking for a sloppier Toxic Holocaust or some new blood in the black-thrash realm. While Weapönizer may not be usurping Desaster or D666 as my go-to’s anytime soon, they definitely have plenty of spittle-flinging energy and know how to carve out a fresh riff. And if nothing else, at least they’ve got the umlaut down.