February 14, 2008

CD Review: grief of WAR - a mounting crisis... as their fury got unleashed

The past few years have brought a revival of sorts in the metal sub-genre of thrash. For better or worse, more bands have chosen to bring this style back to the forefront. Look to bands like Trivium, Warbringer, and Skeletonwitch who are bringing back some of those old school elements to a new audience. This resurgence has also helped pave the way for bands like Slayer (winning two consecutive Grammy's), Megadeth (well received new studio album), and Testament (set to release first album in nearly ten years) to entertain a career revival of sorts. Not that they went away, but their music sounds reinvigorated and considerably more relevant than in it has in some time. While some bands are intent on bringing thrash kicking and screaming into modern times, there are other young bands who embrace the styles of old and just go out and rip classic sounding metal. One of those bands is grief of WAR, hailing from Japan, that emerged in 2005 with their debut album, which is being made available State-side by Prosthetic Records.

In true Japanese fashion, the band has a different take on the use of capitalization of the English language. Having read some about Japanese bands, I have come to learn that they use capitalization (or lack thereof) as much of an artistic preference as the words being written. I am not going to claim any understanding, but there it is. grief of WAR has turned to the glory years of thrash, meaning the 1980's, to take their inspiration; in turn, they have crafted a sound they have dubbed "Samurai Crunch." It is a style that is instantly familiar to metal fans and is supremely easy to slip into, like an old glove. Listening to this debut album is almost enough to make you forget that thrash ever faded to the background to begin with.

The deeper you get into a mounting crisis..., the more you will become enamored with their uncanny mimicry of the Bay Area sound, while remaining an original ensemble. I know I was reminded of Slayer, Testament, Megadeth, Overkill, and Exodus. All of those old school acts that threw themselves into their music with reckless abandon are represented well in this member of the next generation of thrash.

There is something loose and exciting about the way they play their music. It has a raw energy, like they just went into the studio and proceeded to bash out each and every track in one take, in order. As I listened, I thought about how so many bands today are completely calculated in their output. Everything is produced within an inch of its life. grief of WAR, on the other hand, has high production values, as would be expected, but still retains an off-the-cuff quality. Produced edge sounds about right, while also sounding completely wrong, but it works.

grief of WAR brings a good amount of talent to the table. While the music is not the most innovative, it sounds fantastic. From the opening chord progression of "Hatred of Burns" through the final moments of "The Judgment Day," you will be treated to the thrash of your childhood, or your father's thrash, depending on your age bracket. Whichever angle you choose to take, you will be greeted with a blast of thrash that will suck you in and take you back those golden years.

The band is led by Manabu Hirose on vocals and guitar, behind him are Kengo Oura on bass (since replaced by Ken Sato) and Hiroyuki Inoue on guitar. The band did not have a drummer at the time of the recording, those duties were admirably handled by Hiroyuki Tanaka.

This is a band, and album, whose sum is greater than its parts. I cannot say that any of the members excel at their instrument. Sure, there are some nice solo and individual parts throughout the album, but it is the way they all come together that the album soars. It rests almost completely on the guitar, which is raw, insistent, and heavy. It is thrash though and through and deserves to be respected for its accomplishment.

Bottomline. Samurai Crunch, indeed! This album simply rocks. It does not forge any new directions or mine any new sounds, but it takes a tried and true formula and makes it work in a new setting. This definitely for any fan of thrash.

Highly Recommended.

Track list:
1. Hatred Burns
2. Rat Race
3. Sown By Greed
4. Don't Walk Away
5. Distrust
6. Eternal Curse
7. Blind From The Facts
8. Resist
9. Blood Lust
10. The Judgement Day


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