One of the longer running modern thrash bands, Avenger of Blood, has returned in 2016 with their first full-length record in 8 years. I hate to admit it, but this is one band I missed the boat on back when the thrash revival was in full swing. Even now, I still haven’t quite caught up to them, so “On Slaying Grounds” marks my introduction to the band. Much to my surprise, this is actually quite a bit different than I expected. While the band is often noted for their similarities to Kreator, this record shows them playing a style of thrash that is even heavier. In fact, it would be fairer to say that it borders on death metal most of the time. Many of the riffs are clearly written from a thrash perspective, but the rest of the music drives the band towards death metal.
For starters, Avenger of Blood’s vocalist is absolutely crushing his vocal chords all throughout this release. He retains some understandability in a lot of his lyrics, but his voice is even harsher than Mille’s, for example. To complement this brutality, the band’s drummer also tends to step things up a notch from the typical thrash beat. There is a fair amount of blasting throughout the record (though it certainly isn’t as prominent as it would be were this a full-on death metal record). The guitar tone is absurdly heavy and crushes everything in its path, while the guitar solos are wild, frenetic, and fast.
Unsurprisingly, the increased emphasis on aggression comes at the expense of memorability. While there are several inspired moments throughout this release (particularly on the thrashiest track: "Aggressive Psychotic Behavior"), it doesn’t feel particularly catchy. There isn’t much to scream along to, even after several listens. Rather than knowing exactly what part is coming next in each song, your headbanging is likely to increase or decrease in ferocity as the drums change their intensity. But the key point is that you will be headbanging, and for that reason, “On Slaying Grounds” is more than worthy of a few listens. Admittedly, my expectations were higher on this one, but it is nice to hear a band that edges on death metal still utilizing a ton of thrashy riffs, as it seems a lot of death metal has lost its thrash metal influence these days.
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"Aggressive Psychotic Behavior"
3.6/5 or 72%.
Written by Scott