Abandoned - Thrash notes 3.5/5

Reviewed: 3-17-06


1. The oncoming storm
2. Return the one
3. Take the spell
4. Holy terror
5. Breed machine
6. Phoenix rise
7. Pay the dues
8. Demonic
9. Hell is home
10. You're going down
11. Nightmares

Amidst the metal revival of recent years, the genre of old-school thrash metal is often overlooked, spurned like a red-headed stepchild. To be sure, the market has been flooded with high quality reissues of classic 80s thrash releases of late, including the first 2 Sacrifice CDs, the Violence 'Eternal nightmare' reissue, and the Intruder reissues. Also, stalwart German exports Kreator, Destruction, Tankard and Sodom as well as renowned American acts Exodus and Hirax are all active and arguably releasing some of the finest material of their careers today. But there's a real dearth of new classic thrash acts emerging from the primordial soup to bear the torch for this style. To be sure, Italy's Insane have expertly copped the Slayer 'Show no mercy' vibe, and Russia's Arbitrator do a solid Germanic thrash impression, but in general the fresh blood has forsaken the classic thrash sound for greener pastures, even as the younger bands have co-opted and bastardized the thrash genre by injecting unwanted modern elements that pollute, sully and desecrate this once-proud movement beyond all recognition.

Enter Abandoned, who have burst upon the scene from the verdant metal fields of Deutschland with the single-minded objective to restore true thrash metal (not this watered-down modern crap with emo vocal passages, hardcore breakdowns, and downtuned guitars that passes for thrash today) to its rightful place atop the throne. Devotees of classic thrash, particularly of the Bay Area variety practiced and preached by Testament, Forbidden, Death Angel, and the like, will find much to their liking on this debut CD. The guitars buzz through scads of killer riffs with reckless abandon (heh), the relentless rhythm section maintains the frenetic pace (ranging from 170 to 220 beats per minute according to the helpful liner notes), and the vocals emulate the time-honored thrash style, not growled or Cookie Monstered but sung in a raspy voice that still carries melody while articulating each syllable clearly. On this last point, I originally found Kalli's fairly one-dimensional vocal delivery rather underwhelming, but eventually grew to enjoy his rough Mille Petrozza (Kreator) meets Bob Mayo (Wargasm) stylings, finding them to have just enough aggression, attitude and melody to carry the songs. There are no ballads, no whiff of modern trendiness (save maybe in a handful of rhythm parts, such as a brief section or 2 in "Breed machine"), and no weird experimentation to blunt the vicious attack. Instead, Abandoned offer a no-apologies, no-compromises feast of 11 all-out thrashers dripping with old-school credibility sure to warm the cockles of the hearts of the most jaded denim'n'leather-clad rebel. Indeed, standout tunes like "Phoenix rise", "Return to one", and "Hell is home" are top-notch thrash ditties guaranteed to please all enthusiasts of the style.

If you still remember fondly the days of Xentrix, Whiplash and Paradox, then Abandoned should be a blind buy. The songs and performances are convincing, and the stylistic fidelity is pure and unadulterated. Nonetheless, my recommendation does come with a couple of caveats. As an initial matter, the fuzzy, science-fiction, industrial-tinged guitar tone is distracting and downright annoying. The guitar tone on a thrash CD should be razor-sharp, slicing and dicing its way through the mix. What we have here a less irritating iteration of the tone that ruined Annihilator's 'Awaken the fury' and W.A.S.P.'s 'K.F.D.' CDs. I don't mean to overstate this dissatisfaction, so some limiting words are in order. No, the guitar tone on 'Thrash notes' isn't nearly as egregious as that on the aforementioned releases. It does not render the CD unlistenable. It does not destroy the awesome vibe and energy permeating this CD. But this overprocessed, overfuzzed tone is distracting in a negative way and makes me heartily wish that Abandoned had opted for a more traditional, sharper thrash guitar tone when they entered the recording studio to make those crushing riffs stand out that more. Also, the quality of the songs is not uniformly excellent throughout, and there are a couple of tracks within the 48-minute running time that feel a bit like filler.

I have every confidence that Abandoned will remedy these minor defects and unleash an absolute corker of a sophomore outing in a year or 2. For now, however, I'll appreciate and enjoy 'Thrash notes' for what it is, a refreshingly honest, well executed, uncontaminated old-school slab of thrashing metal goodness. Support this CD, and send a message to the industry that old-school thrash is a vibrant and viable sound in 2006.




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