Admittedly, I was zero percent familiar with Aggravator and any of their previous output before their new self-titled EP. Though after spending some quality time with said EP, thanks to Unspeakable Axe Records, who have just recently re-released Aggravator after being independently released earlier this year, I will be hunting down their earlier efforts and rectifying that situation shortly. Most seem to label this San Antonio, Texas based act as thrash, and while that tag isn’t necessarily wrong, it’s not exactly accurate either. Aggravator clearly has enough influence from some of death metal’s founding and/or pioneering fathers i.e. Death, Morbid Angel, and Atheist, mixed within their more extreme take of thrash, à la  Sadus, Devastation, and early Pestilence, to effectively, and more aptly, be labeled as death-thrash.

Regardless if your preferred nomenclature is thrashing death or deathly thrash, the one undeniable fact is that Aggravator, both band and album, brilliantly rip like it’s 1989; and if your 1989 leans more to Consuming Impulse and Altars of Madness than it does Practice What You Preach and Fabulous Disaster, then you’re going to be extremely pleased with Aggravator. Wasting no time in getting down to business, “Desensitized Devotion” showcases that heavy Death/Atheist influence, as well as touching upon some nice Slayer-esque moments between the 1:30-2:00 minute mark. This aesthetic continues successfully, not only through the EP’s next track, “Redundancy”, but as whole through Aggravator‘s nearly eighteen minute run time.  While “Carved Apart” is a bit more thrash prominent in its scope, “Carnal Forms” devours with its fantastic melding vibes of Death and Slayer. The song captures a mixed energy akin to swirling some “Perennial Quest” amongst “Behind the Crooked Cross”. Throw in some great instrumentation, courtesy of bassist, Tristan Hernandez, and “Carnal Forms” becomes quite a nice head-bobbing banger of extremity.

Another thrashing beatdown comes in the form of the straightforward ripper, “Frantic Repressions”, while EP closer, “Suspended Agonal Breathing” builds up in a splendid, midpaced pit friendly moment that kind of reminds me of old Exhorder amongst the Death and Atheist influences. Some fantastic prominent bass and a great guitar solo mix around the track’s two minute mark, hittting perfectly when paired up with guitarist/vocalist, Derek Jones’, wonderful late ’80’s death rasps. The song is a winner, albeit a bit short, ending abruptly and leaving one craving more. Though shouldn’t an EP do exactly that? With its great mix and production, and compelling, if not somewhat  standard, album cover, Aggravator is all cheers and no jeers.

The EP strikes on a more personal level as well, as Aggravator features the lead guitar/solo work of late guitarist Jesse Lopez, who passed away last year at the age of 29. It’s always great to see a band triumph in the face of perils and hard times and especially triumph in putting out such great material that features and honors a fallen brother. Hopefully working with Unspeakable Axe Records will benefit the band in many ways, as they and the label are a perfect match for each other, and Aggravator fits right in among the stellar releases/pedigree acts Unspeakable Axe have released just this year alone(Nucleus, Sadistic Ritual, Algebra, Critical Defiance, & Ripper). Regardless of whatever the future may bring, the reality of the here and now is that Aggravator has struck gold with this EP. Though how could they have not? When you can produce material that has a South of Heaven-circa like quality, but with an authorship talent akin to Schuldiner, Azagthoth, Shaefer, Mameli and the likes, great songs are destined to happen.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Kristofor Allred
October 30th, 2019


  1. Commented by: Ruben

    Excellent band, they make a good thrash

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