Snake Eyes (Pol) - Beware of the snake 3/5
1. Scream for thrash
4. Strzez sie weza
5. Gain nothing
7. Niebieska poswiata zubozenia
8. Plague IX
9. Crimes of imagination
The good folks at Slaney Records have done a fine job in the last year or 2 of identifying and shining a spotlight on quality underground bands, mostly in the thrash realm. Their 'Outbreak of metal' split-CD series is definitely worth checking out, especially volume 1, which featured Vindicator and Metal Witch. The last couple of Slaney releases have been of the single-band, full-length variety, and they were kind enough to send us review copies of each, so let's take a look, shall we?
Hailing from Katowice, Poland, Snake Eyes have apparently been a working band since 2002, but they are a completely new entity to me. Their recorded output has been sparse, heretofore consisting only of a 6-song demo CD, 'Watching you', released in 2008 with a different vocalist. Musically, they fit squarely within the Slaney Records paradigm, offering up a kind of old-school thrash metal that curiously melds mechanical (almost industrial) sounding rhythms with frequent injections of guitar melody and wacky rifferama to keep things catchy and interesting. In various places, I am reminded of Destruction and Belgian thrashers After All, so this definitely isn't cookie-cutter retro thrash stuff, although Snake Eyes may appeal to a significant portion of that following. This 'Beware of the snake' full-length CD offers up 9 tracks and 41 minutes, with 5 of the songs apparently being re-recorded versions of tracks from the 'Watching you' demo. The band's lyrics alternate between English and their native Polish, with 6 songs being sung in the former and the other 3 in the latter tongue.
There's a lot for a thrash enthusiast to enjoy about this CD. Snake Eyes have developed just enough of a musical identity for themselves to avoid sounding like a dime-a-dozen, faceless, nameless retro thrash act. This is a good thing. There are oodles of blistering musical passages that are guaranteed to get the head banging and the foot tapping. The riffage and lead guitars are generally quite solid, too. A perfect example would be "Bestia", which features smoldering, lunatic thrash riffs of the kind that Destruction have perfected in their career, but with a grinding industrial tinge akin to Germany's Macbeth on their 'Gotteskrieger' CD. Good stuff.
Everything comes together nicely on 'Beware of the snake' with one glaring and unavoidable exception: the vocals. I understand and agree that not all thrash singers have the melodic gifts of David Godfrey-White or younger Katon DePena, the nutty free spiritedness of Paul Baloff, or the unbridled power of Chuck Billy, but the vocals ought to add something to the music. Snake Eyes singer Pawel "Swir" Swierkot has a monotonous half-whispered, half-growled deathly delivery, sounding perhaps a bit like the late Quorthon (Bathory) at his most evil circa 'The return'. It's way more extreme than the typical thrash voice, albeit less guttural than the standard death metal growler, but it lacks power, emotion, versatility, anything, really. I'm an old-school purist for the most part, and Swir's vocal style just doesn't work for me at all. I don't think it fits the music, and it's so monotonous that the cool music just cannot overcome it, unfortunately.
So where does this leave us? If you're a thrash completist, then by all means go for 'Beware the snake'. There's enough quality and individuality in Snake Eyes' music and sound that they won't fade into oblivion with the dozens of would-be retro-thrash copycat acts flooding the market today. If you're open-minded about harsh/whispered vocals in your thrash and love Quorthon's evil death voice, then I can recommend 'Beware of the snake' to you without reservation. But if you're at all picky about vocals, and if your tolerance for one-dimensional low-pitched half-growls is low, then Snake Eyes may be a tough sell, despite the rippin' Destructionisms in the music. Perhaps the best advice for all concerned is to check out a couple of samples and recognize that what you hear is what you get with this band in the singer department.
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