Thursday, July 15, 2010

Serenity Dies - Hacksawcracy EP (2010)

The Maldives may have arrived at a metal scene only recently, because I can't say I've ever heard a band of this sort coming from that region of the Indian Ocean before. Perhaps Serenity Dies is an anomaly in their part of the world, I can't say for certain, but from what I'm hearing on this new EP, the secret may not be held for very long. This is a modern thrash band who take a reasonably groove oriented approach to the genre, without flubbing it up and having themselves written off as nu-metal. You can hear the influence of a Machine Head or Pantera, and yet I feel like the band falls more in line with the more recent sounds of The Haunted, The Defaced or perhaps Germans Dew-Scented.

Now I know, as soon as I wrote the word 'groove' in here or referenced a few of those bands, half of the readers probably tuned out immediately, but Serenity Dies deserve credit for knowing how to write a song like this and hang on to the listener's attention span through the sheer force of the riffing. I had no exposure to the band's self-released debut Murder in 2006, but they've apparently been carefully honing their blades in the ensuing period to make sure that they'd be remembered this time. The mix is extremely current and professional, because the band turned to Anssi Kippo and Gavin Lurssen (the former having worked with Children of Bodom) for the job, and they've even tapped Rob Caggiano of Anthrax, and Mikko Salovaara of Finnish band Kiuas to add a few guest leads.

Hacksawcracy begins with the forceful, semi-technical slugging of "Bullet Reign", in which we are introduced to the vocals of 'Chuck', which sound like a mix of Kreator's Mille and Henrik Sjiowall, who used to front The Defaced. A few of the riffs here are the sort of typical, annoying groove metal you'd expect out of a 90s Ozzfest lineup, but the rest are pure, clean and punchy thrashing bliss, enough so that it all comes together quite nicely. "Psycho Ride" also suffers a little for the simplistic, groove/thrash rhythms that comprise the verse, but it actually picks up in intensity for a great lead segment and some far better guitar riffs and some decent clean vocals. "In Devils Symmetry" has some far catchier, melodic guitar writing, and 'Chuck' offers a more melodic, angry voice at times reminiscent of John Bush's work in Anthrax.

"Blood Serenade" shows yet another side of the band, that of carefully calculated, eerie slow guitars that step off into some big, churning grooves and a near mathematical, jamming thrash during its bridge, and yet another of the band's wonderful lead guitar sequences where chaotic, bluesy patterns rattle off against the backdrop. The title track starts off with a bang, a warning guitar melody ringing out over some bludgeoning thrash groove force, and yet again...the band just has this penchant for quality solos that really stir the heart and mind. I could do without the clean, almost jazzy vocal break later in the song, but it's at least interesting. "Dystopian" closes off the EP, an adequate political thrash pounder which once again recalls the grooves of The Defaced or Machine Head.

As I've already warned, some will instantly be turned out by the fact the band does not shy away from modern (or not so modern, by this time) groove elements placed within the thrash context. But Serenity Dies do this a lot better than most bands of their ilk, and there is enough of a more technical thrash axis they rotate about to maintain the disbeliever's interest. The vocals show a fairly broad range, and never end up sounding shitty in any of them. I think the band could improve by dropping a few of the more basal, generic riff patterns (mostly heard in the first two tracks), since they are obviously capable of far more, but with the proper motivation and career choices, they have the potential to make an impact far beyond their island borders.

Verdict: Win [7/10]

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