posted on 11/2008 By:
Somewhere between Celtic Frost, Darkthrone, early Exodus, Amebix, and Sodom, Michigan's Wastelander blend apocalyptic crust with a base of retro thrash and first-wave black metal, and damned if it doesn't rock like hell, even if it does sound like it was recorded in my basement.
Despite the purposefully limited production values, performed by Chris Black (Pharaoh, Nachtmystium, Superchrist), Wastelander succeed by simply kicking ass. (By way of description on the production front: the snare drum sounds like a can and the whole thing is trebly and compressed like one of the classic records the band is unabashedly aping. Wastelander’s vintage aesthetic applies to their sonics, as well. To me personally: yeah, I get why it sounds like this, but I'm not sure it helps me enjoy what I'm hearing. It doesn't necessarily hurt Wardrive, I'll admit, but I can't help but wish that it were a bit more... modern.) The bass guitar is prominent and punchy, adding some low-end to the white-noise guitars but not to the record as a whole, which remains wire-thin and brittle. Matt War’s vocals snarl like Baloff meets Tom G. Warrior, and even though he’s clearly influenced by the Petrozzas and Angelrippers of yore, thankfully he has sense enough to stay away from falsetto screams or ridiculous rip-off-ery. The riffs are simple and punky, especially in the raucous rawk of "Days Of Hell," which sounds like a Motorhead tune as performed by Holocausto or some other low-budget-but-kick-ass thrash outfit. Alongside the thrash and punk influences, there are some noticeable instances of blackened melody, particularly in the catchy-as-hell "Knee Deep In Dead." and the latter half of the six-minute "Frost Storm." With its emphasis on mid-tempo atmosphere and not just speed and fury, the former is a contender for the most interesting track on hand, beginning with some open icy guitar riffs and eventually collapsing into a simple repetitive bass motif. With a filthy razor-sharp guitar tone that could’ve come off some mid-80s Brazilian thrash record, Xaphan kicks out some unexpectedly tasty guitar leads, sometimes melodic and sometimes just frantic and ripping. (Reference first full track "Wardrive" for an example of the former, and reference the end of "Baptized In Ashes" for the latter.) There's a lyrical fixation upon nuclear holocaust, complete with samples of air raid sirens and emergency warning announcements and the whole shebang ends on some scrambled Christian radio broadcasts.
In the wave of thrash revival bands these days, only a select few have gotten my blood boiling, with the D.R.I.-stylings of Municipal Waste being the front-runner amongst the pack. (Warbringer got me for awhile, but I grew tired of them, even though I’d still hold them as better than most of their contemporaries.) Wastelander fit snugly alongside those bands, but with their Amebix-y filth and punk simplicity, there’s a definite crust influence that piques and holds my interest more than, say, Merciless Death ever has. Down and dirty, raw and ragged, this one’s a good little blackened thrash number, and I heartily recommend it, both to thrash newbies and dirty black metallers, as well as to the old guard looking for a new band that actually gets it pretty damn close to right.
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