Released: 2005, Century Media
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
You know that part in PULP FICTION where Marcellus Wallace says “I'm gonna call a coupla hard, pipe-hittin' niggers, who'll go to work on the homes here with a pair of pliers and a blow torch”? Well, listening to BASTARD SON is kind of how I would imagine the two hillbillies felt after said meeting with Marcellus’ crew. Watch Them Die’s second release (following 2003’s self-titled debut) finds the band building upon the aggression, intensity and outright venom of that release to create a listening experience not unlike being kicked in the face with a steel-toed boot while being pummeled with a baseball bat and being forced to look at naked pictures of your grandmother—painful, potentially fatal and just plain nasty! The band’s thrash and black metal influences are immediately apparent but rather than settle with copycatting or drawing on clichés, Watch Them Die sprinkle bits of hardcore’s attitude with a dash of melodic guitar and even a hint o’ female vocals to unleash one of the year’s most punishing and interesting releases.
Pat Vigil’s vocal training must have amounted to drinking 2 parts of piss with an equal amount of vinegar followed by a broken glass chaser. This guy sounds like one nasty bit of business! His blackened rasp is highlighted by the occasional hardcore bellow that drips with poison. To call BASTARD SON modern-day blackened thrash would hardly be far off, either. Riff-wise, Greg Valencia has clearly studied up on his Testament/Exodus playbook but also pulled some all-nighters spinning early Emperor, Celtic Frost and Bathory albums. Ira Harris supplies the occasional well-timed blastbeat but mostly provides the music with a solid, steady backbeat along with Pat Mello.
The one-two punch of “Bastard Son” and “Onslaught” really gets the blood pumping with an endless barrage of snarled vocals, driving riffs and crushing beats. At certain points in the title track, simply isolating the guitars would surely have the listener’s head swirling with memories of THE LEGACY/THE NEW ORDER-era Testament and early Bathory. The impressive intro to “Onslaught” leads into a mass of speedy pacing and Vigil’s evil vocals with screams that will peel paint. After this seven-and-a-half minute battering ram lets up, “Throne of Lies” descends with a haunting guitar and an ominous spoken word intro featuring double-tracked vocals from Vigil and session female vocalist Morea Buckley. The crunching guitars that soon follow eventually flow into manic intensity. The godly Bay Area thrash influence is further felt on “Horizon,” with Vigil’s vocals and muted screams echoing the grimmest of black metal’s elite. “Belial’s Path” further infuses Watch Them Die’s chances of burning in their own circle of Hell with blasphemous, hate-filled lyrics and ungodly vocals courtesy of Vigil. At the halfway point, many bands would slip in an instrumental or a mid-paced number—not Watch Them Die. “Under Flames” begins with a doomy, Sabbath-like intro spawning out perhaps the heaviest track on the CD. Where tracks like “Bastard Son” and “Early Mourning” are quick and to the point, the back-to-back sequencing of two seven-plus minute tracks at the end of the CD (“Battle Lust” and “Born To Suffer”) tends to bog down the momentum a bit. Complete with strings, “Born To Suffer” is an interesting track and quite different from the rest of the CD but the length of these two songs after nearly half an hour of rapid fire pacing seems…just out of place. Split up and mixed differently in the overall sequence of the CD would have been a wiser choice, this point driven home even moreso by the album closer—a formidable cover of Bathory’s “Armageddon”—which tears along with a ferocious propulsion. Watch Them Die take the nefarious tone of the original and really make it their own with Valencia’s vocals on this track throwing ample horns to Quorthon’s.
BASTARD SON should have been called MUSIC TO BEAT PEOPLE BY because this CD simply rips your face off. I’m told the band’s hometown of Oakland, California is a rough place (locals in neighboring downtown San Francisco said to “avoid it altogether” during a visit earlier this year) but if the sinister goings-on that reportedly happen there have helped shape the sound of Watch Them Die, then I say break out the chains and fire up the torches! With vocals and lyrics angrier than a nest of pepper sprayed killer bees and possessing riffs heavier than Gary Holt could ever dream, BASTARD SON is testament to the fact that the Bay Area still has a pulse and the next wave of thrash is bubbling up in an acid-filled haze amongst the fog.
KILLER KUTS: “Bastard Son,” “Onslaught,” “Throne of Lies,” “Horizon,” “Belial’s Path,” “Under Flames”