Critical Defiance - Misconception - (8.5/10)
Published on February 20, 2019
Label:Unspeakable Axe Records
Countless thrash metal acts over the past decade have declared themselves true to the ‘old school’. But let’s be honest, how many have actually achieved that authentic late-’80s vibe that really takes you back; mind, body and soul? Some have come close, but that spark of a familiar bygone era is way too difficult to pinpoint. Well, for the first time ever, I can honestly say that there is a thrash metal band who sincerely conjure the feeling of the initial surge of the genre. Hailing from Chile, Critical Defiance evoke memories of acts like Carnivore, Demolition Hammer or possibly even early Heathen. Without pretence, without insincerity. This is 100% old-school thrash metal done the right way. Misconception may be this quartet’s first full-length record, but they’ve still managed to carve out their own niche characteristics.
Aside from the phenomenal Carnivore-esque album art, the biggest contributor to this old-school vibe is the production quality. This is where I garner the majority of my enjoyment of this album. Misconception is drenched in reverb, with the drums being slightly overpowering – though not in a bad way at all! I can’t get enough of that deep, clattery snare or the cavernous cymbals. Instant grins all round for taking me back the second “Desert Ways” explodes out of the speakers. Luckily, the earthy guitar tone still manages to cut through the clamour and give us some of the finest thrash riffs that Dark Angel wish they wrote. In fact, that turns out to be the focal point of this album – because there is little else! Sure there’s the occasional Kerry King-esque solo, or gang-shout chorus, but this LP is largely made up of piles upon piles of razor-sharp riffage – ranging from the hammeringly simplistic to the progressively angular.
I’ll go one further by saying Misconception is at least 75% instrumental. Sure, Felipe Alvarado’s vocals are rough, raw and angry as hell – absolutely no fault there – but minutes and minutes can pass by with no hint of voices. In fact, we get about 3 minutes into the opening track before we hear any vocals at all! A shame in some ways because the gang-shouts in tracks like “What About You?” are irresistible. But thankfully the sheer quality of riff work going on here is stratospherically good. Yeah, most of the riffs are executed at breakneck speed, but the slower, groovier moments do shine (I always prefer thrash bands that can groove at slow-to-mid pace). Track 7, “Pursuit Of Chaos”, exhibits the best of all these characteristics; boasting powerful gang vocals, a ripping central performance from Alvarado, groovy riffs, rapid-fire riffs, and an extensive solo section which melts my face. A clear-cut highlight.
Through all the manic tempo-changes, cycles of riffs, blazing solos and general fucking insanity – only one thing sticks out as being clear upon first listen. Track 6, “Onset” is the best cut on the disc, and a surefire benchmark for thrash in 2019. This 7-minute masterpiece slices through your skin with dissonant, irregular riffs and a non-stop steamroller of old school raw thrash madness. The riff that kicks in at 1:03 is pure gold. I honestly can’t get enough. One of the few tracks from this year I’ve used the ‘repeat’ button for. Generally, if you’re a fan of the retro underground thrash stuff like the aforementioned Carnivore or possibly early Sepultura, then this going to whet your appetite like a steak cooked by Gordon Ramsay. It might be a tad brief, could do with an extra chunk of meat, but Misconception has my eyes firmly locked onto Critical Defiance to see what they might pull off next. Here’s to the true old school!