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Release Review: Warbringer – IV: Empires Collapse

Retro-thrash… love it or hate it, but after a decade of existence in the worldwide metal music panorama it’s still quite visible and relevant. Even though it is now vastly overshadowed in popularity by the old school death metal craze and the stoner/Sabbath-throwback trend that’s all the rage this days, you still get to see a lot of the “new” thrash metal bands in metal festivals all around the globe, supporting bigger or older acts or even touring solo, and most of them are still producing albums. One of the most visible of such outfits is Warbringer, who started their career with the rather unimpressive One by One, the Wicked Fall 2006 EP followed by the equally uneventful Total War LP in 2008. From that point onwards however, the band started advancing on a path of steady improvement, never unleashing a release that wasn’t superior to the one preceding it. Luckily for the Californian quintet, that hasn’t changed with 2013’s IV: Empires Collapse, as it stands as their strongest offering so far.

I know what you might be thinking. “Their strongest offering so far”? What a formulaic, predictable line to describe some band’s newest record. And you would probably be correct, dear metal brother or sister, if we were discussing another release. But if Warbringer’s fourth long play lacks something, that’s being formulaic and predictable. The very reason why I consider this an improvement over their past works is that IV: Empires Collapse represents a shift in sound and an approach gone right. Now, don’t panic, that doesn’t mean the guys are no longer thrashing ‘til death. It means they’re finally breaking from their confining old school bonds and becoming a richer, fuller entity. Waking into Nightmares and Worlds Torn Asunder both had their share of quality moments, but still sounded generic, by-the-book retro-thrash. Here we’re dealing with something else. There’re more influences at play, and the band has taken several risks (not the Megadeth type of Risks), resulting in a more varied and effective sonic attack.

First of all, one notices that the cover artwork is kind of odd, somewhat out of place both in Warbringer’s discography and in the thrash metal realm alike. They’ve discarded Dan Seagrave, who in my opinion belongs more to the death metal world anyway, but provided them with kick-ass art for their past couple of albums. This image is credited to Adrienne Rozzi (never heard of her) and it seems more suited for a folk/Viking metal album. The classic Warbringer logo has been replaced by a simple, Sharpie-produced typo. Take that as you wish, but it’s the first clear sign of the changes before us. Then we face the production, a bit rawer this time around, which combined with an increased use of tremolo picked riffs sometimes gives this record mild black metal aesthetics. There’s also a heightened used of melody, and not only in the solos, which remain excellent, one of the better assets of this outfit. The riffing is diverse in style and also in quality, and though solid most of the time it’s definitely not outstanding, as it has never been with these guys. John Kevill’s vo-kills remain aggressive and raspy; you may like him or not but I honestly can’t imagine the band with a different frontman.

This record’s ultimate strength resides in its pacing and variety, never becoming dull or uninteresting. Actually, most songs display changes in pace and style throughout their short duration, never reaching the five-minute mark. Not to brand this “progressive”, since most of the ideas incorporated into each composition aren’t extremely complex or forward thinking. It’s more of a tasty metallic cocktail with thrash as its main ingredient, spiced up with some punkish energy and simplicity here and there, occasional blastbeats and other traits from more extreme origins and hard rock accessibility surfacing from time to time. Even gang shouts and acoustic guitars appear. Yet no track sounds like a mindless pastiche of ideas; each and every one of them has cohesion and memorable elements that grab your attention and linger inside your ever-rattling skull.

My least favorite composition is “Leviathan”, its first minutes sounding like one of Overkill’s doomy tunes, only with Kevill singing instead of Blitz. But it also boasts a more compelling speedy section. And speaking about speed metal, “Iron City” sounds like an Enforcer track covered by Deceased. That’s right, it means pretty awesome in case you doubted it. Other two favorites of mine are the rager “Hunter-Seeker” and the Conan the Barbarian-inspired (which grants them extra points) closer “Towers of the Serpent”. The short “Off with Their Heads!” is the only traditional thrasher among this bunch of Warbringer tunes, fast and to the point but not that exciting. Fast and mid-paced moments are intertwined in most songs, so thrash purists might be disappointed, but the average metalhead will undoubtedly find something here to bang their head to. I hope Warbringer carries on exploring these sounds, and hopefully their fifth album will blow our minds. Evile and Municipal Waste should listen to this and take a few cues in how to avoid stagnation.

Warbringer - IV: Empires Collapse

IV: Empires Collapse tracklisting:
1. Horizon
2. The Turning Of The Gears
3. One Dimension
4. Hunter-Seeker
5. Black Sun, Black Moon
6. Scars Remain
7. Dying Light
8. Iron City
9. Leviathan
10. Off With Their Heads!
11. Towers Of The Serpent

Warbringer

Warbringer are:
John Kevill – Vocals
John Laux – Guitar
Jeff Potts – Guitar
Ben Mottsman – Bass
Carlos Cruz – Drums

Warbringer online:
Website
Facebook
Twitter
YouTube

About Ricardo (18 Articles)
100% Mexican metalhead, classic prog lover, international cuisine fearless explorer, avid traveler and virtuosic air-drummer who’s aim is to make a living out of professional illustration from his den in Guadalajara city. A fan of many artists, let’s just say that some of his very favorites in music and beyond include Pink Floyd, Judas Priest, Agalloch, Amon Amarth, Depeche Mode, Alphonse Mucha, Gustave Doré, H.R. Giger, Edgar Allan Poe, H. P. Lovecraft, J. R. R. Tolkien, Guillermo del Toro, Quentin Tarantino, Studio Ghibli amongst zillion others. Loves to meet people from around the world, and to discover METAL from around the world as well. Not that he loves it all, but a good majority. What he searches in music (and art in general) is passion, honesty and emotion above everything else. While he sets up a new illustration site or blog this 2013, you can visit his DeviantArt gallery (http://xyrth.deviantart.com/) with old illustrations, drawings and paintings.

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