Style: Thrash Metal
Release Date: 27 Mar 2019
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I wondered which order I should put today's two bands from Mexico. SixSuns take us to new places but Coventrate, from Monterrey (not to be confused with Coventry from Ciudad Juárez), clean us out. In the end, I thought I'd explore the cosmos first and then return to the pit for some old school thrash and leave the day pleasantly exhausted. This is the second full length album for Coventrate, after 2015's Cannon Fodder and an EP in 2017 called Rat King, both of which I shall now eagerly seek out.
This is thrash how I like it best. It's fast and it's frenetic, of course, and it gives our necks a good workout. It's technically proficient and very well produced, with Leo Uvalle's bass audible and the drums not overdone. Michael X, who debuts here for Coventrate, has a clean voice with a rough edge and a periodic falsetto scream to stamp emphasis on proceedings. The album also plays very consistently indeed. I knew on the first listen that the opener, Thrashing of the People, would be a highlight, but Apocriphal Dream promptly outdoes it one further track in. That's a good problem for a band to have.
Most importantly of all, the escalations are great. The best thrash albums are aware of what speed metal did best, taking us from zero to crazy on the turn of a dime, just a little looser and wilder. There's plenty here that's right out of speed metal and, when they slow down, the intricate weaving of guitars that we expect from Iron Maiden. There's a great example of that on M.O.A.B. (Mother of All Bombs) before it escalates into high gear.
For sheer heads down no nonsense thrash, Brainless Consumer is a peach. It doesn't do anything fancy, just blisters for three and a half minutes until it's done and we're onto Speed Metal Command, which does much of the same. It does leave some room for a solo, which rocks, but I think my favourite solos here are on The Dictator and Distopic Paradise. The two guitarists are Pedro King and Ramon Fraustro and their bandmates know exactly how to kick in and out around the solos perfectly.
After highlighting that there are no bad songs here, I should also mention that not everything's perfect. M.O.A.B. quietens down for a finale but then just ends as if most of the band were already done and one guitarist hadn't noticed yet. There are some spoken word parts, like the one at the start of the title track and midway through M.O.A.B., that are lost behind the music and serve little purpose.
Also, I have no idea what the band's previous vocalists sounded like, and it looks like there have been quite a few of them since Ruso Talavera left in 2017, but Michael X is pretty traditional in what he does. I do like how he sounds and I can almost see him stalking the stage live, head back for the screams, but he's traditional enough to fade into the music a little, which stands out above him.
What it boils down to is that I enjoyed Coventrate when he was singing but I think I enjoyed them even more when he wasn't. The band are very tight and I lost myself in some of the more extended instrumental sections, like during the title track. Instrumentally, they reminded me of early Death Angel, who do not show up on the 'Artists We Also Like' section of their Facebook page. Slayer, Destruction and Municipal Waste do, alongside other more surprising acts like Uriah Heep and Danzig. I'm not hearing them here.
What I'd like to do, beyond seeking out Coventrate's earlier work, is to see them live. They sound like they ought to absolutely blister on stage. Maybe they'll wander far enough north at some point for me to get a chance to see them.