“Evil Aggressor” by Lethal Shöck

Band: Lethal Shöck
Album: Evil Aggressor (2016)
Country: USA
Genre: thrash metal
Where to buy: Bandcamp

The overture to Lethal Shöck’s Evil Aggressor will make you feel like a metal archaeologist, discovering some purestrain thrash that was lost thirty years ago. The tremolo-picked chords, the pounding drum fills, and the roaring bass are all instantly reminiscent of the first notes of Kill ‘Em All. The main riff of “Sulfur Heart” kicks in, and the energy level ratchets up, a trend that Lethal Shöck does not let up on for even a moment on this half-hour release. Everything about Evil Aggressor is high-intensity, from the wall of sound, to the gloriously insane lyrics, to the reality-warping solos. Just listening to this album is a workout, and if you’re not kicking when it starts, you will be by the end.

Thrash has a (perhaps not completely undeserved) reputation for mindlessly repetitive speed rocking, and though it is not hard to find bands that lack for creativity, Lethal Shöck is not among them. The songs are certainly fast and plenty traditional in structure, but even short tunes manage to show off some musical experimentation. They play with tempos, explore meters, adjust dynamics and layering, with the result that nothing on Evil Aggressor is boring. After two verses and two choruses, the opening track, “Sulfur Heart,” is interrupted by a blazing guitar solo. But you’re headbanging too hard to care that the structure is fairly standard, and the following track, clocking in at under two minutes, gives you a chorus that punctuates with multi-instrument accents. These accents don’t pause any of the energy; instead, they lock you into the current and torrent of sound. “Up the Voltage” starts with a Doom-inspired heavy bassline, then speeds up for the verse, delivers choruses in half-time, and comes around to an exhausted slowdown at the finish. (It is also the only song I have ever heard written from the point of view of electrons, so points for that.) Each one of the nine tracks here manages to strike its own claim, so that no two tracks sound too alike, and each one is catchy enough to burrow a bit into your brain. This doesn’t happen accidentally, and it is clear that Lethal Shöck is working hard to give each song its compositional due.

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Singer Patrick Shock reminds me of Lemmy, growling his low rasps so enthusiastically you can almost see him slavering at the mic. His delivery of the Satan-hailing, death-obsessed lyrics is perfectly dirty. Steve Beaudette’s guitar lines are riffy when they need to be, screamingly fast when called for, and distorted in a slightly retro fashion. This really adds to the mid-80s feel of Evil Aggressor, and there are moments in the solos when the guitar has been consciously pulled back so as not to be as in-your-face as possible – this latter being a production value recently favored in response to the volume creep problem of the last 30 years, an inelegant solution that producer Dan Klein intelligently avoids. Justin Fernal provides some truly excellent hard hits on his kit, keeping things moving and adding fills and huge cymbal crashes to keep the energy up. These guys put the power in power trio.

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