Warsenal - Barn Burner - (5/10)
Published on September 23, 2015
There will always be a portion of any modern thrash band that is compared to the golden age of the 1980s. Thrash was just such a pivotal force in that era that those comparisons are going to be made. Some bands resist it, others embrace it, and in the case of Warsenal, they desperately try to recreate it. I’m certainly not against throwback bands that tear their sound straight from 1986 for the most part, as long as the musical content is still dynamic and energetic. In the case of these Canadian’s debut Barn Burner, it’s a bit too old school in many ways and it hinders some of the experience of their sound.
How can something be ‘too old school?’ That’s a very good question and one that I never thought to ask myself previous to listening to Barn Burner. Yet, as soon as this album kicks off it is quite obvious that this band so desperately wants to recreate that chaotic and raw sound of early thrash albums that they are willing to sacrifice many of the solid evolutionary steps that occurred between 1985 and 2015. Even on the surface it feels like Barn Burner tries too hard. The results are that Barn Burner is an off kilter and an utterly unrefined record. For those looking for the sound of 1984 bands that never found their footing then you will find it here. It’s got rip roaring speeds (seriously, Warsenal never stops going 200 miles per hour) of endless punky leads, riffs out the ass, and drums that sort of meld with one another. It also has the quintessential snarling/shouty vocals that were a dime a dozen back in the day. In a way, it’s almost impressive just how old school Warsenal took this record and when it works, like on the fairly restrained “Stab You One by One” or “Let Me Out” then the band showcase what might have been a sense of direction.
However, outside of this raw, energetic outpour of pure 80s thrash, Barn Burner is a record that attempts to burn so hot and brightly for 40 minutes that nothing is left but ashes in the aftermath. There’s no residual effect to the material that hangs out after it ends. No structures to be found. No memories of what was there. This is a result of the lacking cohesion to the album. It’s all 200 miles per hour, spit out teeth and gums, and scattered performances. Half of the time it feels like the band is simply playing as fast and chaotic as they can versus playing a song. There are great pieces to a great thrash record in this release, but none of them fit together properly as the band just mashes it all together.
There are going to be some thrash fans out there that will love the hell out of Barn Burner. It’s relentless in its speed, riffs, and raw force. It’s like watching a barn burn down. It’s destruction and thrash mayhem crafted into an audio form and there are going to be fans out there that gobble this old school approach up. Unfortunately in a saturated market, Warsenal need to pull a bit more out if they are going to make a stronger impression. They need material that is going to echo for more than just 40 minutes of moshing before the listener jumps onto the next record. It just so happens that Barn Burner isn’t that kind of record.
Then again, perhaps Kurgan was right in the 80’s film Highlander. It’s better to burn out than to fade away.