Warbringer are considered re-thrash, otherwise known as retro thrash, a genre that’s been hated as much as it’s been loved. You see, some fans feel that re-thrash is too much like old school thrash from the ’80’s and/or that it basically plagiarizes those bands, like Slayer, Testament, Exodus and Metallica. Personally, I haven’t come across a lot of music that I thought plagiarized those classic artists. Sure, you can hear their strong influence in some of the younger bands, but I’ve never heard something and thought that the band was ripping anyone off. It’s more like paying homage to the bands that they love. The issue that I have with re-thrash is that often the bands try too hard to sound like ’80’s and early ’90’s thrash in general. Instead of coming up with a unique sound of their own, they just sound like a mix of whatever thrash bands have influenced them the most. This is OK for an album or two, but if you’re going to have a career and aspire to be as big as some of those bands were then you have to pull out some new tricks, not merely use and re-use the old ones. And that’s where Warbringer succeeds. Their first two albums might have been paint-by-numbers old school thrash, but they did some different things on their last album and on IV: Empires Collapse, it sounds as though they’ve truly found their voice, that they finally said to hell with genre distinctions and just wrote songs, letting them go in whatever direction(s) they were inspired to take them.
At its core, Warbringer is still a re-thrash band, but it’s the way they incorporate other things into their new songs that makes IV: Empires Collapse such a brilliant album. You still have blazing lead guitar parts and breakneck riffage with screamed vocals, but you also have proggy solos, black metal shrieks and all sorts of death metal flourishes.
The band wastes no time unveiling their new sound with opening track “Horizon,” which features vocals that remind me of the way King Diamond sounds when he’s not doing his super high pitch thing, when he’s just singing normally. And, sure, you can hear the influence of Tom Araya. But you can also hear a hint of death metal in the way that John Kevill screeches most of his vocals here. There’s a progressive element to the song, too. It’s heard immediately in the manner that the song fades in with guitar soloing and again at the end of the song, which ends with a nice acoustic passage.
The single “Hunter-Seeker” is also very interesting as it starts off sounding a bit like old school hardcore music — think early Suicidal Tendencies — but sounds more like black metal when it hits the chorus. And from there it’s like aggressive old school thrash. Yet it all feels very natural as the band twists and turns its way through the song. It also features a lot of clean, Maiden-esque guitar soloing and it’s very impressive soloing at that, showing just how superb John Laux’s playing is. It must be said that drummer Carlos Cruz is brilliant, too. He’s capable of totally dominating a song with his thunderous if not downright monstrous playing, but he also knows when to step back (so to speak) and let the other guys have their moments to shine.
Other highlights include the shriek-fest “Dying Light,” the punk-ish “The Turning of the Gears,” the brutal, anthemic “One Dimension” and the chugging ass-kicker “Black Sun, Black Moon.” It also must be said that their socially conscious lyrics are leagues above the tunes about drinking beer that their contemporaries keep spitting out album after album.
Ultimately, IV: Empires Collapse, proves that Warbringer are a band with something — no, many things — to say. And that they’re capable of doing so in over a half-dozen different ways, all of which they do expertly. It’s easily one of the year’s very best metal albums and one that should be appreciated by fans of retro thrash all the way up to fans of futuristic prog metal.
WARBRINGER will be touring North America with Kreator and Overkill. Here are the dates:
|11/5/2013||Al Rosa Villa||Columbus||OH|
|11/9/2013||In The Venue||Salt Lake City||UT|
|11/19/2013||Backstage Live||San Antonio||TX|
|11/21/2013||Diamond Pub & Billiards||Louisville||KY|
|11/23/2013||Stage 48||New York City||NY|
|11/24/2013||Stage 48||New York City||NY|