Pitiful Reign - Visual violence 4/5
1. Visual violence
2. Human coleslaw
5. Malevolence of the butcher
6. Rapid deployment
7. Pushed to prime
8. Thrash, boobs, and zombies
One of the less-talked about of the newer wave of thrash bands, Pitiful Reign are an act I've had an eye on for a few years now after catching them live a couple of times in 2006. At that point they already had one full-length CD under their belt ('Toxic choke', which they now seem to be considering a demo), but to their credit have come quite a distance in the short space of time since then for their professional debut through Punishment 18 Records.
The band have undergone some considerable restructuring since their first full-length, with lead player Tom Britton vacating and vocalist Josh Callis-Smith putting down his guitar to make room for 2 new axemen, and Pitiful Reign have become all the stronger for it. The new guitarists, Nev Britton and Alan Pashby (previously the band's producer) display greater dexterity and imagination, and their solos are an improvement over the predictable Hammett-inspired efforts of the older songs.
The songwriting has improved along the same lines, and while still feeling familiar (it's still 80s-style thrash, after all), none of the songs on 'Visual violence' have that 'copy and paste' feel about them that dogged parts of 'Toxic choke'. Not the fastest or most technical thrash you will ever hear, the songs are nonetheless memorable and expertly crafted, and have enough character and good humour to endure. The Mortal Kombat-inspired "Fatality" is particularly well structured, with the solo section that simply blasts out of the speakers after everything else thuds to a halt.
"Pushed to prime" is the song where the band really let rip, and despite the chorus slow-down, the breakneck, razor-sharp main riff provides a real injection of energy to the CD. In contrast, "Malevolence of the butcher" is an intricate 7-1/2 minute thrash epic, with a terrific instrumental midsection. Bassist Matt Walker gets to show off his skills in this song, with some unexpected plucking and strumming and, not to be outdone, the guitarists also weigh in with some terrific fretwork.
The bass guitar actually has a very prominent presence on the CD (probably in part due to the presence of Steve DiGiorgio as co-producer) and remains fully audible in the sections of songs where it normally disappears into the background, but without sounding obtrusively loud in the mix. It is a production technique DiGiorgio and Juan Urteaga can be proud of and something more bands should be looking at with interest.
In the vocal stakes, Callis-Smith seems to have benefited greatly from the decision to relinquish guitar duties, as his voice has become markedly better and more versatile with time. His unusual, sort of 'gargling' tones are still there, but some high-pitched Schmier-like yelps punctuate the songs now and he sounds more like a full-time vocalist rather than the instrumentalist in the band with the most passable voice. More assured with his rapid-fire delivery than before, he keeps pace expertly on the faster songs like "Human coleslaw" and displays an assertive and aggressive presence on the obligatory mosh track, "D.I.V.E.".
Improved in nearly every department in just a couple of years, Pitiful Reign may not be the finished article yet, but they are certainly going the right way about it. 'Visual violence' is another strong CD from the burgeoning British thrash scene that is seeing more of its young bands' hard work paying off with recording contracts, and despite having taken a little longer to move up a gear than the likes of Gama Bomb and Evile, Pitiful Reign are showing signs of developing into a quality outfit with some staying power.
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