ANGELUS APATRIDA – Aftermath (Album Review)

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Explosive, forward-thinking thrash arrives at ground zero.

Being at the forefront of Spain’s now expansive thrash metal scene, and dating back far enough to stake a similar claim regarding the worldwide thrash revival that reared its head in the 2000s, Angelus Apatrida is arguably the closest that one might get to designating a non-80s thrash act with veteran status. Drawing heavily from the most kinetic and uncompromisingly aggressive quarters of the initial Bay Area scene and merging a fair bit of extreme Teutonic edge into the equation, their sound could best be described as an atomic explosion of pure auditory violence.

Nevertheless, this quartet has also never been one to stand still in their stylistic delivery and has shown a strong propensity for incorporating new ideas whenever they happen to make the rounds in the broader metal scene. With their 8th studio endeavor in roughly 23 years of destroying ears and necks across Europe, this outfit has upped the ante further still by throwing in a few progressive twists and some outside talent, resulting in a truly fresh and formidable undertaking simply dubbed “Aftermath.”

Perhaps the most impressive thing about this outfit has been its near constant lineup, which has seen no changes since 2001 and underscores the sense of unity and cohesion that permeates each song rounding out this audio novella in 10 chapters. Leading the fray is guitarist and vocal impresario Guillermo Izquierdo, whose juggernaut-like mixture of raw gruff and occasional growls rests somewhere between the forceful sound of present day Chuck Billy and the even nastier one of Max Cavalera. At several key points he manages something resembling an infectious melodic take on the same aforementioned vocal approach, resulting in numerous chorus sections that seem to flirt with metalcore territory without fully leaving the old school thrash paradigm.

The contributions of the instrumentalists rounding out the rest of the fold are no less consequential, with the shred-happy, virtuosic solo work courtesy of David Alvarez rival every legendary name in the style from Skolnick to Holt, while the incessant battery of speed-infused beats oozing from Victor Valera’s drum kit and the steady bottom-end provided by Guillermo’s older brother Jose round out the sonic colossus that emerges.

“Aftermath” Album Artwork

In masterful fashion, the manner by which this quartet approaches their craft mixes a healthy amount of familiar tricks of the trade with just the right amount of innovation to keep both the core fan base and occasional consumers of the art satiated. Pummeling thrashers with an emphasis on speed and old-timey Bay Area riff-happy madness like the monster of an opener “Scavenger” and similarly concise and catastrophically cutting odes like “Rats” and “Gernika” go straight for the jugular in the same fashion as the mid-to-late 2000s early offerings of this fold, emulating such noted San Francisco-born classics as “Pleasures Of The Flesh” and “Forbidden Evil”.

The similarly swift yet darker entry “Cold” takes a few pages out of the Slayer book and throws in an even more frenetic and dissonant presentation, though like the aforementioned “Gernika”, also features a chorus section that is hook-driven enough to inspire a sing-along moment as it would a mosh pit. The fast-paced bruiser “I Am Hatred” also brings the old school fury something excellent, though leaning slightly further back into the history of the thrash riff and often crossing paths with early Metallica and Overkill territory.

Yet when considered in its entirety, this album proves to be at its best when it takes a step back from the pure blood and guts approach alluded to earlier for territory of a more multifaceted type. Though by no means a departure from the frenetic character of the previous songs, one can’t help but note more of a crossover meets metalcore flavor emerging from “Snob”, owing in no small part to the vocal contributions of Hatebreed vocalist Jamey Jasta and that groovy and utterly infectious chorus section.

By contrast, the mixture of atmospheric contrast and wild technical flair of WarCry guitarist Pablo Garcia turns an otherwise standard speed thrashing affair in “Fire Eyes” into something far more intricate. But where things go from mildly curious to truly progressive territory are on what can be dubbed the album’s two ballads, namely the extended, nearly 9 minute slough dubbed “To Whom It May Concern” and the shorter yet equally engrossing closer “Vultures And Butterflies”, the former finding Guillermo showcasing his rarely utilized clean voice amid a succession of wild transitions in tempo and feel, while the latter stays in slower territory and often channels elements of Dream Theater as Queensrÿche vocalist Todd La Torre trades artful shouts and wails with the aforementioned front man.

Though it would be a bit of a stretch to dub this the greatest thing that has come out under the Angelus Apatrida name, it most definitely stands tall amid an expansive and highly consistent discography. It’s not quite as memorable and as intense as the previous eponymous 2021 outing, nor does it quite match the classic flair of 2007’s “Give ‘Em War” (ironically enough, live performances of songs from both albums come with this one as bonus tracks), but it’s in the same general qualitative territory and definitely showcases a level of stylistic development that is a cut above much of the 2023 pack both inside and outside the thrash sub-genre.

Whether one tends towards the recent outings of old school thrash acts that original set the standard back in the mid-80s or the emulations that have abounded since the mid-2000s in Europe, North and South America, this is the sort of album that any self-respecting most pit fiend can sink their teeth into without any hint of shame.

Released By: Century Media Records
Release Date: October 20th, 2023
Genre: Thrash Metal

Musicians:

  • Guillermo Izquierdo / Vocals, Lead Guitar
  • Davish G. Álvarez / Lead Guitar
  • José J. Izquierdo / Bass
  • Víctor Valera / Drums

“Aftermath” Track-Listing:

  1. Scavenger
  2. Cold
  3. Snob (feat. Jamey Jasta)
  4. Fire Eyes (feat. Pablo García)
  5. Rats
  6. To Whom It May Concern
  7. Gernika
  8. I Am Hatred
  9. What Kills Us All (Featuring Sho-Hai)
  10. Vultures And Butterflies (Featuring Todd La Torre)

Order “Aftermath” HERE.

9.1 Excellent

With more than 2 decades of reviving the olden ways of destroying human vertebrae at their backs, Spain’s flagship thrash metal purveyors Angelus Apatrida calls upon a series of unique guest talents and a few modern twists to unleash a veritable beast of an eighth studio LP

  • Songwriting 9
  • Musicianship 9.5
  • Originality 9
  • Production 9
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