Population Control - Death Toll (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Population Control

Death Toll (2019)

Beer City Records

Black metal’s roots lie in the freezing, desolate Scandinavian wilderness. There is something about that barren region that inspires those harsh, godless sounds. You know where else it gets really fucking cold? The northern Midwest in the good, old USA. Take it from someone who spent 11 winters in Wisconsin, it can be a bleak, frozen tundra. Milwaukee, WI’s Population Control have felt that same oppressive, frigid darkness.They find inspiration in the situation and take elements of black metal and fuse them with thrash and crossover. The result is something that’s extremely heavy, but also a bit familiar. Death Toll is the band’s second full length, and their first release for hometown Beer City Records.

Side one opener, “In the Winter’s Burn”, is a cold, blast beat driven slab of thrash. “It Won’t Stay Dead” manages to find a groove between the churning thrash riffs. “Threshold of Punishment” recalls old school death metal. “From Where the Rotting Stench Came” actually adds some melodic guitar lines before descending into chaotic darkness. “Fog of War” is a short, almost hardcore song. “Reborn Into Failure” kicks off side two and even briefly incorporates a mid tempo breakdown. “Terminal Choke” is two and a half minutes of relentless pummeling. “Drowning in the Trenches of My Mind” and “Genetic Overkill” continue the onslaught, before the title track bring the ten track album to its bloody end.

Population Control doesn’t use many of black metal’s symphonic or atmospheric elements, but the vocals are very much in that vein. That might be an issue for more traditional thrashers who are accustomed to the shouting of Kurt Brecht (DRI) and Billy Milano (MOD), or the soaring vocal stylings of Joey Belladonna (Anthrax) or Bobby Blitz (Overkill). In other words, you might love the music, but not love the singing. For better or worse, the words are also not all that easy to understand. Lyrically, it seems to have a kinship with things like Death and Exhumed, and maybe even Earth Crisis and Man is the Bastard. Ultimately, the harsh vocals and words, at least the ones I can make out, fit the harsh and violently propulsive music.

Population Control are among the new breed of bands that couldn’t care less about respecting genre boundaries. They grew up with access to the best of everything heavy, and use pieces of all of it on Death Toll. While metal traditionalists might feel the growing pains, it’s important that thrash keeps pushing forward. Fans of death metal, black metal, hardcore and crossover should all find plenty of things to like about Population Control and Death Toll.