Hurtlocker and Mastery…
Posted on Friday, March 10th, 2006 @ 9:47am » permalink
I had been seeing a number of reviews and ads touting the thrashiness of "Fear in a Handful of Dust" that were making me curious, even though Hurtlocker's name and logo throw up some red flags on my radar (I guess the name does have a ring to it, I'll give 'em that), but I must admit, the claims are accurate: This is some damn good thrash metal.
Chicago had some great thrash bands during the 80's/early-90's, and I'd be surprised if Hurtlocker didn't grow up on 'em, because, despite boasting an understandably more modern tinge, the band's riffs and writing tactics certainly draw inspiration from decades past, and the end result sort of reminds me of Epidemic with dashes of Stampin' Ground (once they started to go total thrash) and minor little leanings towards death metal here and there (in the best possible way – think hints of Malevolent Creation's "Retribution", for example). There's somewhat more of a sneer to the vocals than the old days, but they definitely don't have that forced contemporary edge that I dislike so much, so I'm in full support of the performance. And this is some memorable songwriting too, which is not an easy task when it comes to shooting for an old school thrash vibe. But they tend to stick with two- to three-minute tracks chock full of meaty picking patterns and well executed tempo variations, so I'm sold. I do find myself wishing the recording was a little more fluid (those drums are testing my "clicky" limits), but I can absolutely live with it. Just imagine, though, if these songs had the oomph of, say, The Haunted's first record or something like that… the results would be truly fucking badass.
How a band like this ends up on Napalm Records is beyond me, as this is without a doubt one of the only good releases on the label that I can think of, and I'm guessing these cats are also among the manliest bands on a label that has always struck me as being dominated by silly "dramatic" metal bands with penchants for keyboards and pomp. But check this shit out, fans of thrash's heyday should certainly approve:
Hurtlocker "Already Inside"
Hurtlocker's one of the better thrash bands I've heard in recent years, so if you dig the tunes, pick up a copy of the CD for yourself and spread the word. These guys are definitely getting out there, but I'd say they're still facing somewhat of an uphill battle in terms of really reaching the audience that I think will appreciate them the most. This is damn good stuff:
@ The End Records
Next up is another shockingly ripping example of old school thrash in the modern age with the "Lethal Legacy" EP from Canada's Mastery, on Spinerazor Records. This fucker is jam packed with scorching Bay Area thrash riffs the likes of which you're almost never lucky enough to stumble upon these days, and the band bears two things in common with Metallica: 1. solos that at times have a rocked out Kirk Hammett flare, and 2. the fact that you can barely hear an ounce of bass on the entire EP! So I definitely think the recording needs a little more balance (the drums feel dominant to me right now), but once again I can live with it.
Apparently it wasn't the band's intention to be an instrumental act from the onset, and while I certainly have no quarrels with their decision, I'd love it if they continued the search for the right vocalist. It wouldn't be an easy task, but their songwriting is so dead on that it'd be a shame to lose the added catchiness and power that a strong vocal performance could provide. You see, unlike most instrumental bands, Mastery basically seems to write straightforward songs that simply exhibit the absence of vocals – that is to say that we're not talking about seven- or eight-minute epics with tradeoff leads and significant dynamic shifts all over the place or anything like that at all, it's just a set of textbook thrash tracks without vocals. And that's actually pretty damn cool, so I guess my point is just that… if someone were to play this for you and say, "Check out our new demo, but we haven't laid down the vocals yet." You'd reply, "Holy shit, this sounds great. I can't wait to hear it once the vocals are done!" Know what I mean?
I can't believe they sprung for a die-cut booklet on this thing, though. Sure, it's a nice touch, but the layout blows, man. There are way too many almost-tactful-but-still-really-obnoxious Photoshop textures and shit like that all over it, and Mastery definitely deserves a far stronger and more appropriate visual representation to accompany such impressive tunes.
Mastery "Lethal Legacy"
I'm not seeing this one around at many stops in the US, so unfortunately the prices on this thing can get fuckin' brutal for an EP ($16 at Amazon.com? I don't fuckin' think so, you know?), so… a little over $8 plus shipping (I'm guessing that's another $3 or so, but I'm not sure) from the label seems to be the best route for the time being. Hopefully it'll start creeping into more distros as the positive reviews keep pouring in. Keep an eye on these guys for sure…
@ Spinerazor Records