Back in June, Xentrix released their first studio album since 1996. As if to underline that old school British thrash is back with a vengeance, here's an Acid Reign album, their first since 1990's Obnoxious. The big difference is that, when Xentrix reformed in 2013, it was with their original line-up, all four founding members, while this Acid Reign are original vocalist H with an all-new line-up of musicians. As he says, it's a reboot not a reunion.
I liked the new Xentrix album more than many, I think, but I called them out for a lack of attitude on a few early tracks. That's really not a problem on this album, because attitude is everywhere here, so much so that I wondered about how old these guys are. H is no spring chicken any more, but he sounds as snarly and pissed off as he did when I last saw them live at the Queens Hall in Bradford way back in 1990. Holy crap, I'm getting old too!
I felt invigorated after blitzing through this surprise of a return. I'd say that this isn't just the best Acid Reign album to date, it's also the best Anthrax album I've heard in decades. These are punky thrash songs with riffs bleeding out of the walls and hooks thrown at us with the unerring accuracy of a slapstick comedy pie fight. They're unapologetically geeky too. Like a song about The Evil Dead, namechecking both the short film that predated it and the first sequel, wouldn't fit on an Anthrax album? Of course it would.
There's even a blitzkrieg of a cover right in the middle of the album and it isn't even one we might expect to recognise. It's Blood Makes Noise and the original was by Suzanne Vega, of all people. It couldn't be more transformed if they'd tried, but it fits right in next to the in your face punk attitude of My Peace of Hell ("Help me please, I wanna be sedated!").
With everything on the album raging exactly as it should, it's hard to pick highlights but it is possible. The New Low is an excellent single, a snarly punch in the nose of a relationship ("Hate you, can't face you, can't live without you.") Sense of Independence may be surprisingly short but it also has everything, from blistering speed to some glorious slow chugging that I guarantee will generate pits everywhere Acid Reign play. Within the Woods isn't just an easy song to talk about, it's a great track period.
And I'm rather partial to the two minute breathless chase of a song that is Ripped Apart. What's more, I'm really digging the fact that there's so much variety here on an album that consistently kicks our ass. Just take Ripped Apart as an example. It comes right after the eight minute epic that is Within the Woods and leads into the delicate intro of United Hates. That isn't a problem for Acid Reign and the album is all the better for it.
Half of me feels jealous that I'm no longer in England where I could catch the likes of Acid Reign and Xentrix touring together. The other half knows that I'm in Phoenix, which was the next great thrash capital back in the day and a town where the subgenre is also firmly back on the rise. The Flotsam and Jetsam album in January was a fantastic slab of thrash and Sacred Reich are back too, their first album in 23 years a solid if long overdue return to the studio. It's a good time for us old school thrash fans to be alive!