Altar of Bones
posted on 11/2006 By:
Usually it takes at least twenty seconds or so for a band to put me off, but Commander pulled it off within the first two seconds this time around. I’m going to get this out of the way right now: guys, your guitar tone just doesn’t hack it. If you’re gonna play thrash, and if you’re aspiring to play it well, one of the primary requirements is a biting, acidic guitar tone with lots of crunch. The tone on Altar of Bones sounds more like a budget Fender amp on the overdrive channel, which is to say not too good for this band’s chosen style. If I weren’t reviewing this album, I would’ve turned it off within the first five seconds of opener “Mountain.” It’s that annoying.
Okay, moving on. Commander plays a very American brand of thrash that mixes the expected Bay Area influences with…the expected Pantera influences. The end result sounds more or less like a Bay Area band—Exodus, Testament, even Slayer sometimes—with a Phil Anselmo sound-alike on vox. You may be starting to suspect that you’ve heard this before, and you’d be more or less right. The band is very tight and professional-sounding, if never technically outstanding, and they have a fairly even hand for riff-writing, though you won’t remember virtually any of this album even after repeated listens.
So why am I so annoyed by a band that is more or less just average? It could be that my standards for thrash metal are unfairly high, but I think what really gets me is how unbelievably flat this album sounds. I’ve said before that thrash metal relies on riff quality and implicit energy for success, and Commander just doesn’t deliver on either. The shitty guitar tone and frequent(ly dull) mid-tempo segments here sap much of the oomph from these songs, and the competent but completely retread riffage doesn’t help. And please, PLEASE stop trying to do the bluesy Pantera Southern thrash thing. I know you guys are from Kentucky and I’m sure that you grew up listening to’em and loving them, as did many a metalhead, but imitating their riffs and vocals at the same time is just warranting comparisons that won’t much flatter you.
Oh, and did I mention that the seven-minute sample track (on an album full of three-minute songs) was a bad idea? Because that was really fucking dumb.
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