Spain has never quiet been the hotbed for thrash metal. Even in the 80s, when most countries were producing something of note, I found much of the Spanish output average at best; bands like Fuck Off or Estigia hardly fulfilling unless one was pretty desperate. At the dawn of the new century, though, a group of young men set out on a course that would inevitably bring them closer to that goal than many of their forebears in the Golden years of the genre, and though it might have taken a decade to arrive, and a pair of misses en route (the debut Evil Unleashed being the far weaker of the two), I feel like Angelus Apatrida's third effort Clockwork has finally hit the nail on the head, and we've got an exciting, if less than revolutionary effort.
I feel it's always a point of praise when I hear a thrash band these days that is NOT simply trying to impersonate its influences, and the Spaniards succeed in coming up with something crisp and explosive that doesn't immediately steer your fingers towards the 'skip track' button. Surely, you will hear some degree of Megadeth, Testament, Exodus or Destruction here, in part due to Guillermo Izquierdo's raptor-like vocal presence that in turns recounts the frontmen of all those bands. You may also hear a spike of more modern Destruction in the guitar riffing, maybe some Testament, but really, these guys are so much fresher than the majority of dime-a-dozen hacks who just picked up their copy of Bonded by Blood on their 16th birthday (last month) and decided to milk it for all it was worth. That's not to say Angelus Apatrida have a lot of new ideas or phrasings to offer the exhausted old timer, but there's enough fuel and 'kick' to the material that you won't feel the pounding of 'this again?!?' in your scalp.
The lyrics and titles here also seem rather serious, dealing in all manner of social and anger driven issues that were dominant in this form. Combined with their faster paced, driving licks as in "Devil Take the Hindmost" or "Legally Brainwashed", the latter recalling a little Exodus in its spiteful vocals, you cannot help but bang your head to the lethal onslaught that the band is indulging. The songs do lack the archetypal, extraordinarily memorable riffs that it would take to summon forth nostalgia 20 years down the road (as we can do with so many of the old guard), but the powerful drumming, fervent aggression, wild vocals and occasional launches into some modern, hovering melody are at least the cause for some excitement. In addition to the two tracks I listed above, I'll pick out the winding, mid paced vitriol of "My Insanity", the power metal infusion of "Into the Storm" and the Testament-like flurry "National Disgrace".
If it matters, the band also plays a pretty mean cover of Iron Maiden's Be Quick or Be Dead, but this comes after a fairly convincing arsenal of original material that it's simply icing on the cake. Angelus Apatrida twist together a few components of the Bay Area and German scenes of the 80s and provide a fresh, blood-spattered volley that thankfully forsakes the well-meaning stupidity of most amateurish thrash bands to sprout out of their hi-tops in the past five years. Clockwork is their best album yet, and though it will most likely appeal to the non discriminating thrash advocate, they provide enough of a modern charge to possibly appeal to fans of melodic death with some thrash and groove to it, like say The Haunted, Darkane or The Defaced. It also helps that the songs are in English, since I've never found Spanish to be complementary to this style, and personally I'm not very good with it!
Verdict: Win [7.25/10]