Reviewed: July 2008
Released: 2008, Metal Blade Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Rather than ride the wave of a note-for-note clone of BONDED BY BLOOD or KILL ‘EM ALL, Bay Area thrashers Hatchet thankfully branch out and reel in its various influences on AWAITING EVIL. Astute listeners will hear nods to MORBID TALES-era Celtic Frost, the early aggression of Kreator and Sodom, as well as galloping NWOBHM melodies. And yes, there are shreds of Exodus and Metallica here, too. There isn’t a lot of groundbreaking material to be found on AWAITING EVIL but it’s nice to see these cats didn’t just hitch their wagon to the current thrash trend and hope for the best, either. They came to play and the blazing leads and shredded solos of Julian Ramos prove that, as does the tangible phrasing of vocalist Marcus Kirchen, who waffles between Mark Osegueda-meets-Tom Araya-like shrieks and Tom Gabriel Fischer’s clipped delivery. In an emerging trend that is currently flooding the market, AWAITING EVIL is a refreshing slice of Bay Area thrash metal with a less-than-obvious twist.
According to the accompanying press release, Hatchet rose up out of Oakland, California in 2006 and along with a handful of other similar bands, set out to resurrect the Bay Area’s once vibrant thrash scene. “They will sever the head that does not bang. All you fuckin\’ poseurs better look out!” Humble they are not. Still, the music on AWAITING EVIL does fire you up and successfully straddles the fence between old and new, melodic approachability and moshpit aggression. The twin guitar attack of Ramos and Sterling Bailey captures the vibe that made classics of HELL AWAITS, BONDED BY BLOOD and KILL ‘EM ALL. Riffs are dropped at a mile a minute on the title track while the vicious “Attack Imminent” hearkens back to Kreator’s salad days. Kirchen’s vocals drip with razor-wire grit and fever-pitch urgency on the Annihilator-ish “Storm The Gates,” while “Frozen Hell” gives 3 Inches of Blood a run for their NWOBHM inspirations. “The Dead Will March” echoes the raw, unpolished ferocity of Celtic Frost’s MORBID TALES crossed with Iron Maiden’s melodic but back alley punk-inflected debut. Drummer Alex Perez manages to hammer out a respectable backbeat, especially on the closing title track, without a lot of flash and flair which works for this style of music. Thrash came from the underground and minimalistic but energetic performances were what cut it and Perez does that. Likewise, Kirchen’s falsetto shrieks embody the power-meets-putrid approach of Exodus’ Paul Baloff to a tee.
While some may read into this review that AWAITING EVIL is just a cut-and-paste job of the early eighties’ thrash underground, it is undeniable that the band wears its influences very openly on its denim-and-leather clad sleeve. In truth, AWAITING EVIL, like Warbringer’s WAR WITHOUT END, could have been locked in a time capsule in 1986 and been unearthed today without anyone being the wiser. Hatchet perfectly captures the essence of thrash metal without any sign of being forced or contrived on AWAITING EVIL. Consider this band the leaders of the New Wave of Bay Area Thrash Metal.
KILLER KUTS: “Frailty of The Flesh,” “Frozen Hell,” “Attack Imminent,” “The Dead Will March, “Awaiting Evil”
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