Blood Tsunami - Grave Condition - (7.5/10)
Published on October 29, 2018
Having called their debut album Thrash Metal in 2007 at the height of the thrash revival, one may assume that Blood Tsunami are a spent force more than a decade later. While the Norwegians might be garnering less attention than ever before after a five year break between albums, this fourth full-length suggests that the spark has not gone out quite yet. Those looking for warning signs are still going to find them (Blood Tsunami have never had an easy ride, not when they have an MTV presenter for a lead singer) but Grave Condition does most things right.
The suggestion that this is not thrash metal will surely be made once again by naysayers of the quartet, and – as with 2013’s For Faen! – they may have a point. Scrappy, punky songwriting is once again the order of the day, as it has been ever since Mongo Ninja was laid to rest, since it seems that the three ex-members of said punk metal outfit need to unleash their adrenaline on something. As a result, Grave Condition contains no 10 minute songs, as the first two full-lengths did. Moreover, it’s now difficult to imagine that the explosive energy of Pete Evil and notorious ex-Emperor drummer Faust could be curbed enough to form anything more convoluted than a four minute race. At just nine songs and 27 minutes, this album crams itself into the listener’s ears as fast as it can.
Two opposing points limit the quality of Blood Tsunami’s work. The first is the relative uniformity of the style: energetic riffwork with a powerful production, pounding drums, and roaring vocals is usually a winner, but almost every song aims for a similar goal and travels towards it at a similar high velocity. Little of actual punk rock proves evident in Dor Amazon’s riffing style, though punk’s tendency not to dwell on particular sections is a useful habit borrowed here; likewise, Pete Evil’s non-harsh shout is an insistent feature much more common in hardcore punk than typical thrash metal. Although forays are made into other recognizable territories – Aura Noir’s blackened assault on “In the Dungeon of the Rats” or The Crown’s blitzkrieg melodic bounce on “Gargoyle” – there is little sense of a journey throughout Grave Condition, just a single mood exploding across the extreme palette of heavy metal. Therefore, the songs do feel slightly rushed and interchangeable.
The point in conflict with the lack of creativity is the delivery of the songs. If a band goes all-out for the kill across the entirety of an album, devoting all resources to that mission is certainly the only option. Rarely extreme from a musical point of view, the aggressive tactic of pure volume and BPM worship pushes Blood Tsunami closer to the extreme thrash sphere than one may expect. Toxic Holocaust, Destruction, and Aura Noir have all dallied with black metal without deviating from speed and thrash, which is what the caustic riffing and paint-stripping blasting achieves at some moments. The flatter and more desperate manner in which some of the songs simply throw themselves at a riff also brings to mind Kreator’s Pleasure to Kill, with the vocals similarly straining their sinews to burst out of the restrictions of thrash techniques. As a result, Grave Condition delivers full throttle thrills without ever quite coming off the rails with craziness.
To assess the overall worth of Blood Tsunami’s latest, a few minor points are also worth considering. Since the quality of the songs is moderate, the quantity becomes more significant: on the one hand, the brevity of the album aids it in achieving its dramatic effect, though the presence of an Onslaught cover (“Steel Meets Steel” from a similarly punky thrash album) limits the original content to a minimum, as does the knowledge that “In the Dungeon of the Rats” is actually re-recorded from For Faen! That said, both certainly fit into the flow of Grave Condition, while the brisk, adrenalized soloing of Dor Amazon adds some memorable moments to a decent bag of riffs. Of note also is the gradual improvement of the band’s lyrical intelligence, a point neatly made by the title of “The Allegory of the Cave”, which would not have felt at home on the debut. The overall result of these minor shifts means that Blood Tsunami might now have stepped completely out of the spotlight, yet the music is at least as worthwhile as ever before.