Released: 2009, Nuclear Blast
One of the most exciting things going on in metal right now is the thrash metal revival scene. Whether you like it or not, at least it has effectively killed nu metal for the time being and swatted metalcore aside. With the spewing forth of so many bands though, it becomes difficult to eliminate the atrocious from the majestic. Fortunately, some bands come along like Mantic Ritual and make the process as easy as listening to the first song. The city of iron and steel is home to the Pittsburgh Steelers and to Mantic Ritual. Just like fellow Pennsylvania rockers Poison left the Keystone state over 20 years ago for the lure of dreams and stardom in Los Angeles, Mantic Ritual -known as Meltdown at the time - likewise felt the magnetic pull of Los Angles and its thrash metal revival scene . Once they secured a record deal with Nuclear Blast they moved back to Pittsburgh, changed their name to Mantic Ritual, and no doubt raised a few cold Iron City brews to celebrate. A tour with Exodus and Rotting Christ followed prior to the release of their debut album, EXECUTIONER.
EXECUTIONER was recorded in Germany and produced very capably by Andy Classen. The first song “One By One” immediately signals that Mantic Ritual is operating on a higher technical level than say early Slayer, and is much more serious than equally impressive, humor-loving Gama Bomb. This opening track is a good indicator of what the rest of the album sounds like, with galloping riffs reminiscent of early Exodus and Slayer, and a vocal style that hearkens back to Paul Baloff and early Hetfield. You want old Metallica? Check out “Death and Destruction” for a vintage reminder of the heydays of Kill ‘Em All, and while you are at it, throw ST. ANGER out the window. “Souls” starts with a Slayer-type intro and features a shredding guitar solo and a nice mosh breakdown. Bass player Ben Mottsman manages to keep up with the often speedy and precision riffing of the guitar tandem of Wetmore and Potts; drummer Adam Haritan holds down the fort with machine gun fills and competent double bass footwork.
The bottom line is that all the qualities that made up top flight thrash in the mid 80s are present on this album, from the shouted backing vocals to complicated and fast riffs. The band looks like they were straight from the 80’s thrash scene, with long hair, denim, and t-shirts. Even the production has a definite mid 80s feel, especially with the fair amount of reverb and scooped mid-range sound in the guitars.
Mantic Ritual has obviously heeded the lessons of thrash history and may lead some to question why this style of thrash ever faded in the first place. Truth is, in 1985 thrash was still relatively new and widely embraced. By the late 80s and early 90s, only a handful of thrash bands managed to soldier on, largely because they experimented, tried new sounds, and expanded their styles while all the other bands sounded the same. The one minor drawback of this album is the lack of variety in the tempos and the lack of originality. I would argue that the whole point of a revival is to sound like the old bands, so I have no problem with this sounding just like several 80s thrash albums that I own. However it is quite probable that this will not appeal to some people and many will feel they have “been here and done that.”
So, at this moment in time, I salute Mantic Ritual for putting out one of the best albums of the thrash revival. Nevertheless, I get the feeling that unless they and the rest of the thrash revival want to be forgotten and cast aside like the old thrash movement, they are going to have to evolve and innovate at some point. Fans that believe thrash reached its perfected form circa 1986 and should have been frozen in time right then and there should definitely pick this up, and fans that just hopped on the thrash bandwagon recently with the thrash revival will enjoy this as well.