Animator - The Venom Within - (8/10)
Published on March 22, 2017
Waterford sons and purveyors of old school thrash metal Animator have been at it for the better part of 12 years, albeit much of their earlier years were under a different name, but they may come across as new-comers given their relatively spare studio activity. Thankfully the quality of their output has proven to be a bit more than just amateur emulation of the good old days of the 80s where thrash metal was free to fly high and riff hard. They made a fairly predictable but also respectable showing on their debut LP Blacklisted about four years ago, respectable enough to warrant a high degree of curiosity as to where these Irish thrashers would go next. The resulting EP follow up The Venom Within comes as something of a pleasant surprise, as the somewhat green and basic character that this band exhibited back in 2013 has taken on a more nuanced and well-rounded demeanor here.
If the previous album could be seen as something of a fast-paced, mid to late 80s oriented affair merging the aggression of Slayer with the symmetrical and melodic character of Metallica circa Master Of Puppets, this one comes off as a more progressive and ambitious take on the multifaceted approach that immediately followed at the tail-end of the 80s. The affinity for James Hetfield’s approach to riffing is still heavily present here, though it concentrates more on the mid-paced and punchy character that began to show forth on …And Justice For All, while the vocal approach has gotten a bit more raunchy and high-pitched and sounds closer to the timbre of Mark Osegueda and Sean Killian. But perhaps the biggest shift in sound is the increased presence of the bass work, which sees several prominent parts of activity distinct from the guitars and is consistently audible, bearing more of a likeness to the work of Frank Bello (Anthrax) rather than the previous approach of a more support-based, there but barely character typical to Tom Araya.
At first glance, the pacing of this album would seem to be a rehash of Blacklisted, as the opening number “No Consequences” pulls in a blazing tempo and riff set reminiscent of “Battery” and a side order of Fabulous Disaster era Exodus. But once things get rolling, this EP is more an exercise in controlled burst of speed tempered by periods of mid-paced development and crunch, showcasing a greater diversity of moving parts within a basic arrangement. The title offering “The Venom Within” takes on a decidedly punchy approach with a fair degree of speed that listens like a shortened version of “Disposable Heroes”, whereas “Sticks And Stones” has a menacing, dirty character with a slower feel more in line with “Eye Of The Beholder”, if it were being covered by Death Angel and had an even more impressive guitar solo. The closer “Throwing It Away” also opts for a more down tempo and groovy character, driven by a nice raunchy bass line and taking time to develop before launching into overdrive.
Though there is a limited amount of material to base this assumption off of, Animator’s approach, though a bit more refined here, tends to work better in smaller doses. It’s still pretty comfortable nestled in the predictable parameters of an 80s revival effort, and given the lack of atmospheric gimmicks or a hint of an acoustic instrument to justify elongating these songs, the EP format tends to work a bit better than the LP did about four years ago. Naturally this assessment may be wholly disproved the next time that Animator hits the studio, and the potential is definitely there for these guys to really break out and revival the popularity of acts like Havok and Evile with further experimentation. All those who are jonesing for even more quality thrash in the Bay Area 80s variety are encouraged to given this riff-happy snickers bar a go, just watch out for the poisonous nougat if a prior immunity hasn’t been developed.