Thrash revival is all the rage these days, and the surplus of kids donning snug-fitting denim jackets and Fabio Lanzoni hair packing Trivium and Municipal Waste shows alike can back it up. While the vast majority seem to be blatant, crappy knockoffs of one or more of the Big Four, Warbringer and their debut War Without End have been touted as nothing short of the second coming of thrash by more than a few online metal zines.
All within the ages of 17 and 22, Ventura, California’s Warbringer signed on with Century Media after successful self-released EPs stirred up attention in the Los Angeles area and word of mouth began spreading about these high school-aged phenoms. With a sizeable budget and producer Bill Metoyer (D.R.I., Dark Angel), War Without End nearly lives up to its name. Thrashing through 11 cuts, the band is able to deliver songs of varied structure and feel, with soaring solos clearly aiming for the quality of `80s metal mainstays, but also with neck-breaking speeds the likes of which Suicidal Tendencies and S.O.D. helped pioneer in the crossover hardcore genre.
Right off the bat with “Total War,” it's clear this band means business. Lightning solos climb up and down the scale as Warbringer hammers through War Without End, at times appearing as an homage, and at times totally fresh. As the rapid-fire double-bass pounds through “Dread Command,” I can almost hear Kurt Brecht’s rally cry: "Fuck the system that can’t have me / I don’t need so society!" Instead, Warbringer sing almost exclusively about what their name would suggest. Titles like “Systematic Genocide,” “Instruments of Torture” and “Born of the Ruins” suggest the off-chance that I may have stumbled upon a metal band that has something to say about the senselessness of war and its devastating effects, and the lyrics to “Total War” support the notion: "Thousands of soldiers march to their fate / Lambs to the slaughter, certain death awaits / Trapped on a field littered with bones / Nations of fallen lying below."
Could it be that a style-possessed thrash band is willing to challenge the status quo and get behind a cause? I mean, they have played 924 Gilman Street, probably the leftist music capital of the world, for punk’s sake. But the answer? Nahhh. "I don’t put any politics in my lyrics… Our music is about the riffs and a barrage of senseless violence and evil... All the lyrics are war, violence, death, and Satan, with the intent of being as over-the-top as possible! The message implied in all of this is simple: Bang your head until you puke!... I think metal lyrics just have to match the feel of the music. Which, in our case, means just over-the-top violence and general badassery. Or at least, that’s what we aim for." Bah, I should have guessed. I hoped “Combat Shock” was going to be a Clash reference, but based off the above, I’m less convinced.
All things considered, Warbringer is an extremely talented drop of fresh blood in a pool of thrash revival that is rapidly overfilling. Musically, they knock the socks off most bands attempting this kind of music -- there’s no doubt about it. But in the grand scheme they’re just drawing Picasso on tracing paper.Bands like Anthrax and Darkest Hour have proven substance and metal aren’t mutually exclusive, so why are they so rare? Warbringer: Keep up the riffs, and next time around, a sense of conviction would only help build on the impressive repertoire you've established on War Without End.