Godslave - Out of the ashes (EP) 3.5/5
1. Out of the ashes
2. Slaves to the black
3. Wings of wrath
4. Dead reckoning
5. Where the sun sleeps
The old adage of not judging a book by its cover is highly applicable here. From the band name and stylized artwork, one might justifiably assume that Godslave are some kind of 90s death metal act. Thankfully, they are not. No one will ever confuse Godslave with the likes of Cannibal Corpse and Deicide. Instead, this quintet from Saarbrucken, Germany specializes in a brand of ripping thrash metal that they describe as "old school - new school - OUR school." After immersing myself in this 5-song, 23-minute EP at some length over the New Year's holiday in a distressingly non-hungover state thanks to visiting family members, I agree with this characterization of Godslave's sound.
Although this 'Out of the ashes' EP is unapologetically, unmistakably thrash metal to the core, it would be a mistake to lump Godslave in with the retro-thrash clones popping up hither, thither and yon these days. Rather, Godslave pursue a more original left-hand path, carving their own identity in this saturated and oddly trendy (at the moment, anyway) genre. From a strictly guitar-playing standpoint, axemen Bernie and Meyer assault the listener with torrents of razor-sharp inspired thrash riffage that ranks among the most lethal I've heard in years, then shift smoothly into old-school mosh parts, more groovy bits, and pronounced passages of melody that crop up occasionally in homage to traditional metal. There are elements of classic Bay Area thrash in the playing, but also more modernish thrash along the lines of current Exodus or Dew-Scented, and of course the long and venerable shadow of fellow Deutschlanders Kreator is felt in the music from time to time. Thus, the guitars run the gamut of the thrash metal scene, past and present, and have successfully woven these sometimes conflicting parts into a pummeling steamroller of killer riffage. I could sit here and listen to these riffs all day long. And the rhythm section complements the guitars nicely, sticking to tried'n'true thrash patterns without resorting to annoying blastbeats or other such nonsense.
Unfortunately, the vocals are another story. Godslave strangely eschew all manner of clean or traditional thrash singing in favor of boring half-whispered death metal growls that remind me a bit of the Witchery guy, or perhaps a lesser Johan Hegg of Amon Amarth. I read an interview with guitarist Bernie wherein he explained that vocalist Thommy grunts "because he can." That's not really a satisfactory answer. To handcuff such powerful, compelling thrash metal music with one-dimensional death metal vocals is to do a disservice to Godslave's compositions. Obviously, though, this is a matter of taste. The same people who love Amon Amarth's and Witchery's vocals (rather than, like me, enjoying those acts in spite of their vocals) will probably think that Thommy's style suits these songs perfectly. I'm not a death metal guy, never have been, so I think we'll have to agree to disagree on this point.
All of that said, the future looks bright for Godslave. According to their press release, they did not solidify their line-up until 2007, banged out a full-length debut 'Bound by chains', and then the 5 tracks on this 'Out of the ashes' EP in quick succession thereafter. With a bit more time to gel and perfect their style (and, please, hopefully, maybe, possibly, fix the vocals), it is no stretch to see Godslave ascending the ranks of the thrash metal scene. In a time where stagnancy and mimicry is ubiquitous, a fresh wind is blowing from Saarbrucken. Its name is Godslave. To paraphrase Emilio Estevez's immortal line as Billy the Kid in the Young Guns films, prepare to reap the whirlwind...
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