Suicidal Angels
Divide and Conquer

Perhaps it’s a cynical viewpoint, but it seems thrash metal as a whole is languishing in the midst of a creative rut, with the bulk of bands more content on rehashing the nostalgic 80’s period of the genre’s definitive days rather than pushing the envelope and taking the genre into fresh new territory. Whilst acknowledging the space for some no frills old school thrashing in the modern thrash landscape, I can’t help but feel the genre is in serious need of a handful of trailblazing units to shake things up.

Greece’s Suicidal Angels are not the band to take up the challenge, but they are certainly one of the more vital and worthwhile bands pedalling thrash of the old school variety.  Formed way back in 2001, the band has released a string of quality albums, such as 2010’s excellent Dead Again, and their equally accomplished follow-up, Bloodbath (2012). Owing a significant debt to the work of Slayer, and wearing their Bay Area thrash influences proudly upon their sleeves, Suicidal Angels aren’t about reinventing the rather stringent confines of the thrash genre.

Divide and Conquer is the band’s fifth album and largely follows the well travelled path of their previous four efforts. Despite a lack of musical progression and originality Suicidal Angels are a consistent and dependable thrash band, largely compensating for their lack of innovation and limited dynamic range through the sheer exuberance and airtight execution of their playing, coupled with an abundance of catchy old school thrash riffs embedded into each song.

The strong rhythm section holds up to scrutiny and provides a sturdy backbone, while the stock standard snarls from Nick Melissourgos gets the job done well enough, displaying a particular knack for memorable vocal hooks.  But it’s in the riff department that Suicidal Angels’ excel beyond the mediocre into more noteworthy thrash territory. Melissourgos and Chris Tsitsis wield their axes with fleet fingered glee, firing off pure thrash riffs of the fast and furious variety, while proving equally adept at punchy mid-paced riffing to mix up the tempos. The solos are actually pretty decent as well, giving the songs some extra flavor and melody.

As solid and enjoyable as Divide and Conquer is, it’s an album almost devoid of any element of surprise. Suicidal Angels’ apply the safety first approach to their old school thrash formula, without raising the stakes in the songwriting department, thus falling short of the standard of their past couple of albums.  On the production front, they opt for a clean and balanced sound, which comes across as sharp and punchy without falling into modern production pitfalls. However, the guitar tone is noticeably missing the gnarlier, serrated tones of previous releases, zapping some of the raw power that suited their material so well.  That being said, the album maintains a brisk pace and there’s no shortage of killer tunes on offer.

“Marching Over Blood” serves as a potent opener, beginning with an attention grabbing mid-paced riff that develops into a speedy jam complete with catchy chorus and some riotous soloing.  “Seed of Evil” is a tad overstretched in length, but it’s otherwise an enticing bulldozer that channels the measured mid-tempo moments of …And Justice For All-era Metallica with solid results. The ominous build-up and orchestral intro of “Control the Twisted Mind” throws a rare curveball before it explodes into one of the faster, more aggressive thrash rhythms on the album. The song is very well paced across its nearly 7-minute duration, ending with a final frantic burst.  Stacked with quality riffs, stellar drum work and biting vocal hooks, “Pit Of Snakes” channels Slayer in the best possible fashion, while closing track “White Wizard” is a surprisingly engaging epic that suggests the band has some songwriting scope and ambition hidden within their otherwise stock standard thrash approach.

Divide and Conquer offers nothing out of the ordinary or especially original, but for those seeking a pure thrash metal thrill ride, executed in a watertight and energetic manner, you can’t go too wrong with Suicidal Angels’ meat and potatoes take on 80’s thrash.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Luke Saunders
February 20th, 2014

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