Tuesday 9 April 2019

Pokerface - The Greatest Storm (2019)

Country: Russia
Style: Thrash Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 7 Apr 2019
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | Official Website | Twitter | YouTube

I'm happy that being so busy this week means that I'm looking at EPs as well as full albums, because that brought Moscow's Pokerface to my attention. They play their thrash (with elements of melodic death), not only with technical aptitude but a palpable sense of energy.

They've been around since 2013 and released two full length albums, Divide and Rule in 2015 and Game On two years later. The latter featured the current line-up for the first time, which includes an exuberant lead vocalist by the name of Alexandra Orlova, who goes by Lady Owl. I have no idea at present what her predecessor, intriguingly named Delirium Tremens, sounded like, but they have a winner in Lady Owl.

It's her voice that makes the first track special. This four track EP kicks in with its title track and it's good stuff even before Lady Owl shows up. It's traditional heavy metal meets melodic death with decent riffs, good solos and an agreeable pace. I'd have liked this even without vocals, but they explode all over the track and turn it from a strong brushed steel instrumental into something bursting with colour and life.

Eternal Reflection starts out in a similar fashion, but moves up a gear to be straight ahead heads down neck breaking thrash metal. I'd have liked it more if it had stayed there, but I'm not going to complain about slower sections or the shift from clean to light death vocals. The contrast is fantastic, kind of like an alternative band got heavy, realised how fun it was and then found a magic button that launched them into hyperspeed. It's easy to imagine Doctor behind the drumkit just aching for that button to be pressed.

That The Song of My Revenge is my least favourite track is just an exercise in ranking. It's a worthy song with perhaps a slightly more commercial feel as melodic death with almost entirely clean vocals. It does speed up nicely, harsh vocals kicking in to back the clean ones.

That Pain Overdose is my favourite track is just another exercise is ranking. There are no bad songs here but this one just seems most resonant to me. It's another heads down thrash track but with a more antagonistic chorus that feels very good, even if Lady Owl's accented English makes it seem like she might be singing something else. As with Eternal Reflection, it refuses to stay thrash throughout but that Kreator-esque chorus is never far away. The slower sections are neat and Xen Ritter's guitar continues to be memorable, whatever speed she's playing at.

I dug this EP a lot. They somehow feel like a thrash band with a fondness for melodic death rather than the other way round, even though the song structures suggest the reverse. I'm still trying to figure that out.

Maybe it's just that they're at their best when they're blistering along at a rate of knots with Lady Owl hurling out her attitude at anyone within earshot, rather than when they slow down a notch or two to get more interesting. I find that I really like the combination of the two, though. I do love thirty minute blitzkriegs of albums that don't care about other textures, but I also love it when bands get interesting. This EP comes as close to doing both as I can remember. No, it's not the greatest storm but it's a pretty damn powerful one and now I need to track down that last album!

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