Released: 2007, Relapse Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Pardon me while I date myself here but for those of us who are old enough to remember what it was like hearing seminal albums like DARKNESS DESCENDS, BONDED BY BLOOD, PEACE SELLS…BUT WHO’S BUYING and RIDE THE LIGHTNING when they were first released in the mid-eighties, before they had time to sink in and the respective bands evolved, thrash was new and exciting. Slayer, Dark Angel, Exodus, Megadeth and Metallica were seen as “dangerous,” “scary” and on the fringe of metal’s then-burgeoning L.A. glam metal scene. They weren’t legends yet and the albums were found on underground labels like Metal Blade, Megaforce and Combat which made them seem that much more ominous and appealing to those in search of shredding guitars, dark lyrics and unbridled aggression. It was what separated the men from the boys.
A few new bands like Municipal Waste and SSS are trying to recapture that magic today but are met with raised eyebrows and jaded opinions. Along with Merciless Death and Warbringer, though, Dekapitator not only captures it but does it so well on their long-awaited sophomore album, THE STORM BEFORE THE CALM, it is like jumping in a time machine back to 1985. Begun as a side project of Exhumed’s Matt Harvey and Andy Jones, Dekapitator has been on hiatus since 1999’s brilliant WE WILL DESTROY…YOU WILL OBEY but the time is finally right once again for old-school Bay Area thrash to emerge as THE STORM BEFORE THE CALM sets its sight on total annihilation.
An air-raid siren opens and closes THE STORM BEFORE THE CALM and a better warning could not have been chosen as the title track tears out of the gates. Midway through, the tempo shifts from a mid-paced chug to ripping, circle pit fodder driven by a glorious shredding guitar solo. “Toxic Sanctuary” bristles with old-school thrash fury that culminates with a fierce middle section. Matt Hellfiend’s paint-peeling screams and the thick, rubbery bass of Dan Bulldoze exude hellish images and the inclusion of twin guitar melodies torn from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal playbook adds an epic touch. “Deathstrike Command” is just as punishing with a raw, ugliness that is scraped right off the back alleys of the Bay Area. The diving guitar solo is pure heaven and when Hellfiend and D. Attacker trade off licks a la King and Hanneman, listeners will find themselves involuntarily headbanging and flailing away at air guitar. “Run With The Pack” motors through at a speedy pace that combines elements of punk and crossover to the thrash mixture. When Hellfiend shouts “Thrash!” to lead the band into a swirling inferno of shredding guitars, the youthful gusto of Metallica’s “Whiplash” immediately comes to mind. The mortar shells and rifle fire of “The Call To Combat” add to the searing leads which hearken more towards Exodus’ more intense playing. “Screams From The Holocaust” is as fast, nasty and evil as anything Slayer did in its prime complete with whammy bar dives and piercing screams that are bone-chilling. On the flipside, the gorgeously melodic instrumental “Eye of The Storm” takes twin guitar leads and weaves a dark, moody tapestry that is breathtaking in its tranquility.
It has been a long eight years since Dekapitator last struck gold and in that time, a thrash resurgence along with a cesspool of metalcore and emo bands have all raped the legacy of the genre by latching on to its basic essence and citing the influence of the Bay Area. Leave Municipal Waste for the hipsters because Dekapitator would scare the bejesus out of them anyway. Hell, just look at the album cover adorned with a bullet belt clad demon clutching a battle axe in front of a war-ravaged apocalyptic wasteland! Metal fans looking for a taste of REAL FUCKING OLD-SCHOOL THRASH can end their search with THE STORM BEFORE THE CALM. This album is it, kiddies—no gimmicks, no bullshit and no ulterior motives. Fire up the air-raid siren and get ready to thraaaaaaaaash!!!!!!!!!!!
KILLER KUTS: “Toxic Sanctuary,” “Deathstrike Command,” “Run With The Pack,” “Screams From The Holocaust”