Thursday 19 October 2023

Nervosa - Jailbreak (2023)

Country: Brazil
Style: Thrash Metal
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 29 Sep 2023
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It's only been two and a half years since I reviewed Nervosa's fourth album, Perpetual Chaos, but a lot has changed with the band since then. Traditionally a trio, they were a four piece at that point, with Prika Amaral the sole remaining founder member. She's the band's guitarist and has been for its entire run but, soon after Perpetual Chaos, Helena Kotina joined as a second guitarist. Amaral was also the lead vocalist for year when the band was formed in 2010 and now she is again, as Diva Satánica left in 2022. The rest of the line-up shifted too, as bassist Mia Wallace has been replaced by Hel Pyre and Michaela Naydenova is the latest in a line seven drummers, Nanu Villalba showing up after Perpetual Chaos and gone already.

Given such continual flux—perpetual chaos, we might say—we might expect this to be transitional material as the new line-up, half of which wasn't even in place at the beginning of the year, figures out what they want to do and how they'll do it. Well, that's emphatically not the case. They kick in hard with Endless Ambition, sounding not unlike Kreator, and they demonstrate just what they can do with two guitarists in a couple of instrumental sections that I only wish were longer. The tempo shifts a lot with some neat escalations and that continues into Suffocare too.

Both these are excellent songs but Ungrateful ups the ante and absolutely blisters. It's fast out of the gate but it gets faster and then it gets playful. There's a lot here to enjoy, with buzzsaw guitar, frantic drumming and some neat tempo changes. It may well be the best track on the album, which is why it isn't too surprising that it slows down afterwards so Seed of Death can have an intro. The best Nervosa songs are the fast ones and Ungrateful has a real competitor in Kill or Die, which is a particularly vicious old school thrash song. And then Gary Holt shows up for When the Truth is a Lie to add extra depth to the guitar sound.

It's definitely the guitars that I followed most here. I love them when they're buzzing riffs through my skill. I love them when they get elegant, as they do on Seed of Death. I love them when they do something more unexpected, the solo on the title track sounding rather like what Brian Robertson was doing for Motörhead on the Another Perfect Day album. However, I also have to call out both Naydenova's drumming, which is appropriately varied but always top notch, whether she's raging on the fast songs or adding layers to slower ones, and the solid production. This album is far more in your face than its predecessor and the drums are perfectly placed in the mix.

Pyre does exactly what she needs to do on bass without ever stealing the spotlight, so that leaves Amaral's vocals, which are also more vicious than her predecessor's. Diva Satánica wasn't without death metal in her voice, but Amaral's is harsher but still enunciated. It never quite reaches death growl territory but it comes close at points, like on Gates to the Fall. Check out her introduction to Behind the Wall to see how vicious she gets, spitting out her lyrics with fury. It all works nicely with the vicious guitars for a real in your face sound. I like this new Nervosa.

Now, I've always liked Nervosa because they tend to play their thrash fast and furious, which is how I like it best. However, they don't stay in full gear throughout, mixing up the tempos to keep these songs interesting, and rarely dropping into chug sections. I'm starting to dread them on albums of late, because so many new thrash bands seem to be happy at a mid-pace, but there's a stellar chug on Sacrifice, aided by Amaral's rough vocals that keep it from feeling too soft. There's always some abrasion in her voice and that maintains an edge on these songs even on those rare occasions that they might lose it otherwise.

Given that there were a couple of guests on the previous album and I've already mentioned one in this review, I should add that there's a second guest on Superstition Failed in Lena Scissorhands, a Moldovan vocalist who sings metalcore/nu metal for Infected Rain and more traditional hard and heavy for American band Death Dealer Union. She brings a new angle to this album, without going too far beyond Nervosa's style. Holt, of course, plays into it perfectly, so Where the Truth is a Lie is just a Nervosa song with three guitars instead of two.

This is their fifth album and I'm already looking forward to their sixth. I just wonder who might be in the line-up at that point, in addition to Prika Amaral. Keeping this line-up would not be a bad thing.

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