Undo the Chains

This past year has been a tough one for… well, so goddamn many reasons. But in particular, the last year has seen the Metal community lose a heartbreaking amount of legendary and highly influential artists. LG Petrov (Entombed, Firespawn), Alexi Laiho (Children of Bodom, Bodom After Midnight), Sven Gross (Fleshcrawl), Mike Howe (Metal Church, Heretic), Joey Jordison (Slipknot, Murderdolls) – honestly this list, as brutal as it is, only scratches the surface of the immense talent lost recently. And of course, despite his more limited time in the world of heavy music, the unexpected death of Power Trip’s Riley Gale left a hole in the hearts of metalheads all over the world.

Indeed, Riley and his bandmates, with their unique signature brand of single-kick-backed Thrash Metal, took the metal world by storm. One band in particular that seemed to take that single-kick-mindedness to heart, was Indiana’s Wraith, who released their own unique side of a similar coin with 2018’s excellent Absolute Power – more punky Motorhead-meets-Midnight than their Texan Counterparts, but played with a similar punchy, high-energy delivery.

Now look, I don’t know the dudes in Wraith on ANY kind of personal level, certainly don’t have enough of any kind of relationship with them to make any assumptions about their intentions – and according to notes from the band, writing for this album started back in 2019, well before Riley’s death. That said, the output on Undo the Chains makes it hard to believe that there wasn’t SOME dedication to the work of the late singer and his band that went into the writing process, because there are a LOT of moments on this record that bring Power Trip immediately to mind. Not in a “oh they’re ripping off Power Trip” way by any stretch of the imagination – there’s just a bunch of excellent riffs and awesome choruses where I find myself thinking “damn, that sounds like it could have come off some unknown, unreleased Power Trip record.” Which, to be clear, is fucking awesome.

Look no further than first single “Cloaked in Black” to hear what I’m on about. From the beautiful, righteous guitar squeals, to the simple, chugging chorus that would inspire entire venues of fans to rush the stage and sing along, to the excellent two-step breakdown and chorus, it all comes together for a track that sounds like it could easily have come off of PT’s Nightmare Logic. You find similar tricks pulled on the super-infectious “Dominator,” “Gatemaster” and album-closer “Terminate,” the latter of which is purpose-built for circle pits and crowd participation. The track’s closing breakdown is only terrible for the fact that it’s such an immense high point, and to have the album end immediately after is just mean and cruel. CRUEL I SAY.

But if it’s more of the band’s Motorhead-eque fuck-all attitude from Absolute Power that you’re looking for – worry not; there’s still plenty of that in spades. “Mistress of the Void” and “Born to Die” both lean much more on that catchy-as-fuck, rock-out punk vibe, along with quick-hitter “Disgusting” which even flirts with a bit of a crust vibe that I really dig. And they continue to throw in a bit of that early blackened edge, found on the more mid-paced “Time Wins” and Venom-inspired “Victims for the Sword,” which, paired with singer/guitarist Matt Sokol’s raspy vocal delivery, both seethe with evil, yet extremely fun intent.

The permanent addition of touring guitarist Jason Shultz seems to have paid off for the band. With the dual guitar attack, the album’s tone does have a more aggressive impact, but his melodic, infectious leads have helped the band maintain their overall good-time-having, party-like atmosphere that makes them such a fun listen and gives them a unique character. Their self-described brand of “No Bullshit Speed and Thrash Metal” has remained intact, while still finding ways to grow their sound and, to these ears anyway, do a damn fine job of filling some of that hole left behind by the loss of Power Trip. Between this, Bewitcher’s Cursed Be Thy Kingdom, and Enforced’s Kill Grid, the current state of American Thrash/Speed Metal is riding a new high that I am all the way here for. Also, shout-out to Redefining Darkness/Seeing Red records continuing to make strong arguments for being the best of the best in the industry right now with yet another excellent signing and release. There’s absolutely zero question when you see either of those names on a release, you’re getting the good stuff. Give this one a spin and let the evil good times roll.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Steve K
September 9th, 2021


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