I’m sure a lot of thrash fiends out there know who Mem Von Stein is but just in case you’re in the dark as far as the name goes, Mem was the bassist/vocalist on 1984’s POSSESSED BY FIRE courtesy of Germany’s Exumer. For many out there, that album is not only one of the best debuts in thrash metal, but one of the best thrash albums ever (include me in that list). So, now, over 20 years since that debut and a handful of bands later (ranging from thrash to hardcore) Mem is back so to speak, at least to thrash metal.
Sun Descends hail from New York City and see Mem surrounded by relative youngsters in Sam Awry (Guitar), Jillian Ann La Boy (Bass) and Chris Torre (Drums). Stylewise Sun Descends play aggressive thrash, very much in the old school vein. Exumer references are sure to abound and one can certainly hear the Exumer sound in Sun Descends but this isn’t just a rehash by a legend. In some ways one can hear a bit of the NYC influence on the band as I can hear Overkill creeping through. One complaint with the band’s sound on the album though is that I think the guitars sound pretty thin but maybe that adds a bit more of the old school feel to the album? It also gives the bass a much larger presence than it would normally get.
Opening with “Angry Male Gods”, Sun Descends first full-length, INCINERATING THE MEEK, doesn’t let up. While the song opens abrasively with a somewhat unmelodic groove riff but the band brings on the 1-2 thrash beat soon enough. The song is absolutely raging and with Mem’s vocals it’s hard to think of how the song could be more violent and aggressive. “Presence” starts off on a fast note but quickly institutes a build up with a slower, yet much busier riff that sees the drums following the guitars before the song resumes it’s fast pace and doesn’t let up after. The song finds the chorus being the most vocal driven with rather minimal thrashing and rhythmic yelling but the band pull out one of their best riffs at 1:57 with mid to uptempo chugging and thrashing. To me, “Menacing Devils” starts off sounding the most old school (though really, the whole album isn’t exactly modern). With a somewhat melodic riff that merges into the solo and some great two part riffing (3-4 open chords into thrashing madness) which sees its reprise during the chorus. During the song’s solo into dual lead section the bass becomes much more upfront and in some ways reminds me of traditional metal in that regard as most thrash bands won’t let the bass take any sort presence in the music.
“Broken Seals” starts off aggressive and abrasive and stays so during the songs verses. The band settles into a bit of a groove for the prechorus/chorus combo which creates a nice catchy section among the thrashing chaos… throw in that slow breakdown and one has a nice dynamic throughout the song. “Fallen Saint (Fallen Again)” is an obvious remake of the classic Exumer track. While there’s no doubt about the greatness of “Fallen Saint” I don’t think the band had to record this song, the album is more than strong enough as it is and I’m sure that there are quite a few out there that will take one look at the tracklist, see this song and pass it off as the band trying to sell Mem’s past and not the music and for an album of this quality, it’s obvious the band doesn’t have to live off anyone’s past glories.
INCINERATING THE MEEK is a quality thrash album that may get heinously overlooked this year due to a lack of production and the unfortunate judgement that happens with any thrash legend who is still making music these days. Don’t judge this one before you hear it, cause you’ll be surprised at how tried and true Sun Descends really are.
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