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Scourge
Transgression
February 2005
Released: 2005, Independent
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Gabriel C. Zolman

Australia normally brings to mind such acts as Abominator, Blood Duster, Pegazus, Mortification, or Destroyer 666. This sounds like none of those bands, and to this we thank the gods.

Combining elements of both old-school Thrash and Power Metal, this most closely resembles the crunch-metal riffing of the mid-nineties Midwestern underground—remember bands like Conquest and Jesus Freaks? That’s the ticket. Actually, Jesus Freaks are a fairly decent, albeit obscure, musical reference, as vocalist Ryan Smith carries much the same Hetfield-worship in his voice.

There is a lot of groove, a lot of crunch, and an awful lot of remarkable riffs and solos. It’s almost a shame this has such a “down-home” hometown feel—this band could really do something if given more to work with, and a label. Their cover artist, however, should be shot. (No one likes to be mooned by some faux-angelic crash-test dummy. No one, I tell you.)



It begins much like a standard-issue power metal release—until the crunching starts. Then it takes on an early-eighties Bay Area underground sound…in fact, “Mechanized” sounds a good deal like something straight out of Death Angel’s songbook. Really, the vast majority of this CD falls just short of an Iced Earth-style interpretation of Frolic Through The Park.

NWOBHM melodies drift in and out of “The Cold Taste Of Steel,” veering in between homage-driven Primal Fear/Manowar cheese n’ thunder, and vintage speed metal chug. Meanwhile, the album’s title track remains its strongest cut—the opening 90’s-style power riffing stop and start with unrivaled precision, yet never wander into hyper-technical Meshuggah-land. Then just when you think the track will be a straight-forward Pantera-styled new-jack thrasher, a series of powerfully executed Swedish harmonies (which admittedly, I’m a sucker for) and classic metal bits accentuate the remainder of the track. “When The Scourge Strikes” is perhaps the other notable moment here—it amply displays the band’s various abilities, showcasing them at their most confident, and most triumphant.

“Fortress” provides another highlight, albeit briefly, with its opening machine-like rhythms and early-Metallica style of songwriting (Sadly, the track seems to meander a bit toward the end.). Cliché gang shouts bring the mid-point power ballad “Under a Sombre Moon” down considerably. Despite attempts to give his vocals variety, Ryan’s ill-fated snarls and whines steal power from the guitars, which—let’s face it—are the real focal point of this CD. Fortunately, “Deceive” resumes the frantic pace of the album’s opening, galloping along like a good many mid-80’s Metal Blade acts (Attacker and Jag Panzer come to mind, tempo-wise).

The vocals do need work; they are derivative, in the least—though strangely, they never quite feel out of place. (“When The Scourge Strikes” is a good example of this). When they work, it feels like Beyond The Embrace; when they fail, it’s Indestructible Noise Command, 80’s-era delete-bin kings, all over again. But those guitars! This might be Amateur Hour, but it is the Hour Of The Lord. If you’re not hooked by the title track, there’s something wrong inside (or you bought the new Limp Bizkit by mistake).

Despite a somewhat misguided outro piece (in which, for an awkward minute and forty-eight seconds, the band momentarily forgot they were not Styx), this is a refreshing change from the unceasing Slayer-worship of most New-Thrash tyrants today.

Admittedly, I had to dock a point or two for presentation, and the wafting stench of Hetfield on Smith’s voice—don’t think for a moment that doesn’t get tedious. But overall, for a debut, and for a self-released effort, this simmers with potential by and large.

Fans of Iced Earth and Ride The Lightning-era Metallica should be slipping on their own jizz to find this, no matter how stupid the cover art, bulging misshapen buttocks and all.
Track Listing

1. Exordium
2. The Cold Taste Of Steel
3. Mechanized
4. Transgression
5. Under A Sombre Moon
6. Deceive
7. Fortress
8. When The Scourge Strikes
9. Namarie

Lineup

Ryan Smith – Vocals
Paul Cooper – Guitar
Simone Dow – Guitar
Ainsley Watkins – Bass
Ash Nielsen – Drums


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