Wreck-Defy – Powers That Be Review

Sometimes quality material can slip through the cracks in a busy month and fall into oblivion. Wreck-Defy‘s third album Powers That Be almost suffered that ignoble fate. This Canadian super group has flown under my radar up to now despite featuring Greg Christian (ex-Testament), Aaron Randall (ex-Annihilator) and Alex Marquez (ex-Malevolent Creation) in its ranks. Having overlooked the promo entirely, I only circled back to it because I had some extra time on my hands and decided to cram in another review. Lucky I was too, as Powers is one of the most entertaining thrash albums I’ve heard this year. This prodigiously talented band rocks a sound that borrows a lot from Testament but there are nods to the likes of Pantera and Strapping Young Lad along the way. There’s also a compelling undercurrent of hard rock and hair metal that makes for some interesting twists. Most importantly though, the album kicks a goodly amount of ass while taking a bucket-load of names.

Things open in a rabid rush as any good thrash album should with the hyperactive attack of “Beyond H8.” Savage, beefy riffs slash and burn as Aaron Randall demonstrates a harsh delivery he never dared unleash on his sole outing with Annihilator. The chorus is restrained and highly memorable and the song works very well despite some cringey, profanity-laced lyrics I would have loved when I was 14. The title track is pure Testament worship and Randall actually sounds like Chuck Billy at times with a burly, ballsy delivery. It’s the riffs that sell the thing though, and there are plenty to savor as sole axeman Matt Hanchuck makes a case for his being the most valuable player despite being the least well known. The solo he uncorks around the 5 minute mark is stunning and attention grabbing and it’s very clear the man is a six-string monster. As things advance we get a strange hybrid of Megadeth and Skid Row on “Skin” that should suck but actually works and wins you over. Then there’s the Pantera meets hair metal hookiness of “Drowning in Darkness,” and again there is success against all odds.

The best stuff actually shows up later on, as with the crunchy, Iced Earth-y badassery of “Space Urchin,” which I just can’t stop spinning, and the uber-catchy, ear sticky Testament meets Strapping Young Lad speed-fest that is “Goodbye to Misery.” Add to that a first-rate thrash gem like “Freedomless Speech” that Testament could have recoded in their youthful prime, and you have something serious going on here. I even like the way the album wraps with a mellow slice of soft rock calmness that smacks of Annihilator. Are there issues? Sure. Some of the songs suffer from thrash bloat, clocking in at 6-7 minutes when 5 would suffice, and the 52-plus minute runtime is pushing it to the limit. These are common missteps though and the strength and sheer entertainment factor of the material more than offset such minor glitches.

In a band full of more notable players, it’s rather surprising that Matt Hanchuck is the most essential cog. His guitar-work is top-notch throughout, dropping a mean riff or amazing solo at every turn. His playing is so good in fact, you may not even notice some songs ramble on 2 minutes past advisable. This guy is the real deal and I’m now a big fan. Aaron Randall surprises as well, demonstrating that he only showed a fraction of his ability on Annihilator‘s oft-maligned Set the World on Fire outing. This guy can rage and his vocals run the gamut from thrash maniac to hair metal hero and on to greasy hard rocker. Impressive stuff indeed and his wide-ranging delivery gives the band an unpredictable and unique sound. The backline of Christian and Marquez is predictably tight as hell and they too bring the thunder with lusty abandon. Talent abounds here, folks.

Wreck-Defy may have been under my radar, but now they’re firmly locked in my sights and I’m digging into their prior releases hungrily. Count this among the few surprises of 2020 that didn’t suck epically, and count Powers That Be as a thrash album you should check out post-haste and forthwith. POWERS indeed.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: SubLevel Records
Websites: wreck-defy.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/underground4560
Releases Worldwide: October 9th, 2020

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