Trauma - As the World Dies - (7.5/10)
Published on November 9, 2018
Forget the legacy, here’s the future
Interestingly, for a band that now features Greg Christian (ex-Testament) and Steve Robello (Dublin Death Patrol), Trauma is still best known for housing Cliff Burton for one of its demo recordings. Oddly enough though, the Californian band had already split up by the time of Burton’s death and was not resurrected until 2013, when Donny Hillier (vocals) and Kris Gustofson (drums) were the only former members to continue. Since then, seven other members have passed through the line-up, the band recorded Rapture and Wrath, and then the current five-piece (rounded out by Joe Fraulob) laid down As the World Dies. And, although not aiming for Trauma’s original speed/power metal target, it’s a respectable effort from some experienced hands.
Pinning down the current emphasis of Trauma is not easy. Certainly more relaxed than their Bay Area pedigree might suggest, there is nonetheless a certain spurt of adrenaline to some of the songs on As the World Dies that scorns the notion of a band rehashing old ideas. Chugging riffs and bursts of speed make their presence felt during “From Here to Hell” and “Run for Cover”, but – just as with Rapture and Wrath – that isn’t the focus, instead pursuing a more mainstream heavy metal formula that includes some groove influence. That means fans of Overkill’s 1990s output will find something to like, especially if Hillier’s vocals seem more comfortable than the incessant shrieks of Bobby Blitz, with the musical palette similarly broad. The mid-paced material takes in some classic metal and hard rock techniques, for example in the poignant Dio/Halford chorus of “Last Rites” and the graceful twin lead melody that follows it. However, don’t get to thinking that As the World Dies looks back to the ‘80s for much of its inspiration, since there are strong parallels to the murky trudge of Alice in Chains on the title track and particularly “Asylum”, right down to the nasal whine of the vocals.
This mix of styles might wax unseemly for a band of Trauma’s history and pedigree, though it is all too seldom that we see a “classic” band exploring other sounds – and so effectively, it must be added. Other than the interest value of bringing together disparate ideas, the production helps make the album a force to be reckoned with. Much punchier than the previous effort, the guitarists get a thick rhythm tone somewhere between recent Exodus and Accept output, while the leads sparkle more energetically than the heavy base. Speaking of heavy bass, Christian and Gustofson assure a gut-level punch of truly modern proportions, meaning that the lower pace of the album is balanced by greater power. As such, credit must go to Fraulob for the sterling production job, as well as to Juan Urteaga, who brings some of the mixing qualities associated with past work with Testament and Machine Head. Therefore, even on a sonically modern song like “Asylum”, occasional flashy guitar fills bring to mind albums like Testament’s Dark Roots of Earth – another successful combination of classic and modern elements.
As such, Trauma seem to have made a leap from their past into the present and landed with both feet firmly planted. Despite not becoming part of any particular trend (the ‘90s references will see to that), As the World Dies certainly sounds like something current rather than something fun but ultimately passé, partly because of the album’s weight but also the occasional lead trickery that turns “Entropy” into a highlight and perks up the mediocre “Cool Aid”. A few moments of ho-hum music discolour “Gun to Your Head” and lead track “The Rage”, though a lasting favourable impression is assured by placing the irresistible melodic chorus of “Savage” at the end of the album, surely resulting in most listeners singing it for the rest of the day. Overall, As the World Dies might not be a special album, yet it represents a strong step for Trauma into a relevant future and reminds other reformed bands that nostalgia doesn’t preclude new ideas.