Besieged – Victims Beyond All Help

Jayaprakash Satyamurthy reviews the reissue of the album from Besieged titled Victims Beyond All Help, released via Unspeakable Axe Records.

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Tracklisting:

‘Internal Suffering’
‘Death’
‘Buried Alive’
‘The End’
‘Victims Beyond All Help’
‘Trapped Inside’
‘Black’

This is fierce! Besieged isn’t just another gang of wistful reprobates longing for a mid-80s utopia of denim vests and white hi-top sneakers. They’re a fast, furious band who prove that thrash metal isn’t just an outmoded subgenre or an exercise in nostalgia. As far as I’m concerned, there are very few thrash revival acts out there worth listening to, and Besieged’s straight-for-the-jugular attack and relentless barrage of whipcracking riffage make it clear that they’re here to chew gum and kick some ass.

Remember when Sepultura was awesome? I’m talking Beneath The Remains and Arise. Remember Dark Angel at their peak? Remember how there was a time when death metal and thrash weren’t that far apart, when you could hear the genres bleeding into each other at the edges? Besieged operates in that space, but that’s not to say that their sound is a throwback. A song like the simply-titled, aggressively perfect ‘Death’ with its swirling riffs constantly ratcheting up the heaviness factor isn’t just an attempt to recreate the past; it’s an absolutely up-to-the-minute, vital and immediate song in a genre that still has a lot of life in it in the right hands. Nolan Smit’s furious, barked-out vocal delivery is pleasingly reminiscent of Max Cavalera at his most furious or Mille Petroza in his earlier years. Unlike the usual Bay Area necrophilia, the riffing draws as much on the Teutonic thunder of very Sodom as it does on American thrash. This makes for a volatile cocktail, one that erupts with dazzling incendiary violence on another album highlight, ‘The End’ or the title track, a veritable feast of riffs with enough chunky, sizzling mosh fodder to whet even the most jaded appetite.

There’s nary a misstep on this steaming platter of some of the juiciest thrash metal it has been my pleasure to consume in the past decade or so. The album was originally independently released, and major props are due to Dark Descent’s thrash sub-label, Unspeakable Axe who’ve picked another real winner for their sophomore release. I can’t wait to see what this band, and this label, has lined up for us next!

 

 

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Birth A.D. – I Blame You

 Jayaprakash Satyamurthy reviews Birth A.D‘s new album ‘I Blame You‘, released via Unspeakable Axe Records.

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Tracklist:
01. Mission Statement
02. Equal Opportunity
03. Burn L.A.
04. Failed State
05. Bring Back the Draft
06. This Scene Sucks
07. Violent Retribution
08. No, Man
09. I Blame You
10. Short Bus Society
11. Wrong Again
12. Fill in the Blank
13. Kill Everybody
14. No Jobs (Don’t Work)
15. Cause Problems
16. Parasites Die
17. Popular War
18. Blow Up the Embassy

 

Cut the crap, here’s the thrash.

When this whole thrash revival scene kicked off, it didn’t take long for my excitement to turn to ennui. Blame it on one too many faceless bands who’d spent more time hunting down hi-top sneakers and bullet belts than they did on their songcraft; blame it on record companies eager to cash in and releasing material that tried too hard to ape the highlights from Bonded By Blood or Kill ‘Em All without aspiring to the same level of quality, never mind originality.

Birth AD, whose crossover thrash/hardcore sound reminds me of S.O.D., D.R.I. and the likes, kicks that whole scene to the curb with their righteous, one-minute-forty-one-second ‘Mission Statement’. Eschewing the unearned populism of so many wannabe thrash bands, frontman/bassist Jeff declaims ‘we won’t write any songs about thrash/or put it on our t-shirts for easy cash/we’ll never tell you to get in the pit/we don’t give a shit’. It helps that this statement of purpose is delivered over a buoyant, breathless punk-metal riff-fest, straightforward but never monotonous and, despite its short running time, not without a certain modicum of musical development.

The rest of the album follows in the same vein, delivering one short, cynical anthem after another. Songs like ‘Failed State’ and ‘Popular War’ take on political issues while ‘I Blame You’ and ‘Short Bus Society’ sees the band taking a jaundiced view of the blowhards, wingnuts and common folk who are as much to blame for the state of things. Before you start thinking this is all heavy political activism, like a punked-up RATM, the great thing about Birth AD, and what connects them more deeply to the subgenre they’re working in is the sense of fun – there’s just something in the snotty delivery, the gang shouts and the relentless, effusive energy of the band that makes it hard to keep a straight face.

Dark Descent Records has long been one of the most consistent labels in the death/doom/black metal scene; this is the debut release from their thrash sub-label, Unspeakable Axe Records. The integrity and quality of this release, all the way down to the memorable cover art, suggest that we can expect good things from both the label and the band.