Review: Nephastus “Tortuous Ways” [Whiplash Records]

Review: Nephastus “Tortuous Ways” [Whiplash Records]

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Score 81%
All roads lead to Brazil
81 %
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From the mid 80’s until the early 90’s, plenty of great Brazilian thrash metal albums saw the light of day and in this case, we’re talking about a 90’s thrash metal record that’s clearly groove metal-free. Formed in 1986, it would take Nephastus some years to finally release their debut, but these guys definitely took thrash metal seriously (so do I, but I’m just a fan, remember?).

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that you’ll detect Sepultura in Nephastus’ sound almost right away and considering the time this came out, you might expect many nods to Arise, but I’d argue that this features more nods towards the band’s late 80’s era. This means that riffs alternate between hyper-speed and exciting mid-tempos and make it through a similar hollow production that made Schizophrenia sound so distinctive. But there’s more: several blastbeats and furious death metal riffs make it once Tortuous Ways progresses; resulting into a similar kind of havoc that Mutilator created circa Immortal Force. Vocally, you even end up with a one dimensional, gruff shouter who channels Max Cavalera to a certain degree… to say that Nephastus sound Brazilian would, indeed, be an understatement. “Bloodless Award” doesn’t reveal the band’s heritage too much until the Max Cavalera-esque yells make it next to that rollercoaster riff and although it’s not my favorite track, it’s somewhat stylistically representive; even the lead guitarist channels Andreas Kisser’s trademark leads; making it quite a refreshing change when compared to the cat in the blender kind of shredding that you might expect. Far more referential sounding, “Animal” channels Schizophrenia once it launches into high gear and Beneath the Remains in terms of those mosh-worthy mid-paced moments; making it a brutal, yet thoughtful example of a Sepultura-esque thrash metal song. It may not be original, but I’ll take quality over originality, especially when we’re talking about hot riffs and in this case, I’ll just assume that the Brazilian climate has something to do with it.

I’ll admit that Tortuous Ways doesn’t stick in my mind as much as plenty of thrash metal albums do, as none of these tracks appear to be earworms and rather run together, but at its best, the album finds an ideal balance between Brazilian vigor and calculation. Not surprising, the shortest tracks reveal the most vulgar side of the band and if you couldn’t get enough of Mutilator’s thrash/death metal hybrid of Immortal Force, you’ll probably have a good time with these. The title track and “Eternal Eyes” immediately go for the kill with its intimidating death metal-esque riffs and blastbeats that serve the track’s destructive purpose, only to lead into a short chugging section as far as the former goes and to lead into a brief galloper as far as the latter goes. Although I wouldn’t have minded an entire album of furious thrash/death metal songs, it’s clear that Nephastus are capable of much more. I never get the idea that I’m listening to an impulsive band; it sounds like these guys spend a lot of times jamming and refining their craft before recording. The proof lies in the near six minute long “Blood and Ache”, which ends up like a journey of melodic buildups, blitzkrieg riffs and some well-timed Andreas kisser-esque solos (which even bring to mind Sepultura’s “To the Wall”, interestingly enough).

There are two drawbacks: “Bloodless Award” features several riffs rapidly making a great start, but quickly starts to evoke boredom instead of fury by the time that pointless chugging takes over. That’s not to say that mid-paced thrashing can’t be done but rather poorly timed, you first end up with thirty seconds of chugging and so-so thrashing riffs and later this goes on for an entire minute! Unlike the aforementioned “Animal”, these slower sections go on for far too long and let’s face it: in thrash metal every second counts… so once you slow down, you better do it properly. “Dying Slowly” is another victim of the band’s slow and uninspiring moves; starting off with some decent lead work, but otherwise chugs along into nowhere land and by the time things speed up, the track has reached the two minute mark already. More along the lines of Arise than anything else, it’s just a piss-poor track.

With seven actual highlights, there’s no doubt in my mind that Tortuous Ways will satisfy the thrash metal fanatic, however. So, if you consider yourself a fan of Brazilian thrash metal, Nephastus will surely leave a good impression behind. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to give the band’s demos a try… so see you around.

Release date: 1991

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