SummaryFamiliar, yet refreshing
|4.1 (1 votes):
Once one has become familiar with the big thrash metal bands and decides to dive into the underground, finding quality bands can be a challenge. Deathrow are an interesting case, as they started with their early Slayer-meets-Destruction debut that lacked the musical qualities of either. Raging Steel makes a change for the best; it doesn’t represent the intellectual growth spurt that the band would undergo circa Deception Ignored just yet, but it’s a dynamic example of German thrash metal done right.
If there’s anything that Deathrow has proven here, it’s that a band can better themselves in just one year. The guitarists aren’t quite the guitar wizards that they would be in the future, yet they manage to turn on the action with a German baggage of rapid-punchy riffs, melodic motives to build up musical narratives and colorful guitar solos. Writing-wise, the band seems more ambitious and daring. Each song is built on a solid foundation of riffs, yet the guitarists refrain from firing riffs off as quickly as possible and aren’t afraid to let their riffs breathe from time to time. I should admit that Mio remains the weakest link at this point; as his voice is a bit on the unrefined side, even if I got used to it. This guy lacks the anger and venom in his voice that other German thrash metal vocalists possess, yet you would never call him a proper singer, either. He’s more comparable to Ron Royce minus his Tom Warrior-esque mannerism; meaning that with the exception of a few higher notes, you would hardly describe the vocal delivery as expressive. Still, a vocal style like this worked far better in Coroner’s case, given the guitar machinery that was a huge part of their 80’s records (interestingly enough, Mio would find his voice on Deception Ignored, which from a stylistic point of view demands less from the vocals to begin with).
But really, the writing is where it’s at and I should admit that this one of the most optimal paced records that I can think of. At first sight, Raging Steel may come off as a dirty riff thrower of a record, as the title track instantly goes for the kill with a blitzkrieg riff that remind me of The Chasm’s ‘Revenge Rises / Drowning in Mournful Blood’. It’s a wonderful idea to start things off in a blazing manner and who doesn’t love a track that lives up to its name? ‘Scattered by the Wind’ features some hilarious lyrics (‘Hitler was the asshole’s name!’), but ends up as another explosion of thrash metal magic. That rapid-fire motif makes me think of Artillery‘s By Inheritance, if only they wouldn’t be obsessed with exotic scales and that hammering thrash break comes off unexpected, yet provides some variation to the lightning-speed sections. The melodic stomp of ‘Dragon’s Blood’ is hardly an intense affair, but makes up with some flowing verses and a surprisingly divine chorus of memorable vocal lines and delicate guitar lines. It’s the band’s first attempt at a thrash metal epic… and it certainly isn’t the last one that appears on Raging Steel.
Like a musical chameleon, Deathrow continue to show their versatility, yet they do so with superb results. With its electrifying guitar presence, ‘Pledge to Die’ matches the grandiose energy of the first two tracks. Sophisticated, yet mosh-worthy, it’s more along the lines of Destruction and Coroner… certainly not something that I would ever complain about. Even the instrumental ‘The Undead City’ rules, as it’s another riff-fueled tank of a song with several different moods to it. Be it those early Slayer-inspired triumphant bits, or the uplifting leads that pleasantly dance around the speedy riffs, it’s another song that shows how much Deathrow have grown in just one year. Perhaps best of them all, the epic voyage of ‘Beyond the Light’ is the perfect way to close the album with. The creepier leads that hint toward the unknown and the foreboding guitar passage in between certainly add to the tune’s mysterious atmosphere, yet Deathrow refrain from going overkill with their unexpected narrative. They quickly return to doing what they do best by kicking your brain in with another suitcase of sexy guitar licks and hasty vocals; something that I absolutely approve of.
Raging Steel may not be the best gateway record, but the experienced thrash metal fans will probably find something to please themselves with here. Again, Deathrow would continue to grow on an intellectual level, but even so, Raging Steel remains my favorite because of its creative spirit.
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