Thursday 9 November 2023

Angelus Apatrida - Aftermath (2023)

Country: Spain
Style: Thrash Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 20 Oct 2023
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I haven't bumped into Angelus Apatrida's music before, but they arrived with the millennium and put out a steady stream of albums, this being their eighth, two years after their self-titled album in 2021. They hail from Albacete in southern Spain and play thrash metal with quite a variety.

This album starts out relatively traditional, Scavenger playing firmly in speedy Bay Area style, but Cold features a chorus that wouldn't have felt out of place on the Within Temptation album that I reviewed yesterday. That's not unusual for this album, where verses sound like thrash verses but a lot of the choruses are big hookladen efforts that reach far beyond the genre. This one works in a commercial gothic metal style before launching right back into the traditional thrash.

Cold also shifts into crossover during its second half, reminding more of Anthrax than Death Angel, an approach which continues on Snob, the first of four tracks to feature a guest. On this one, that's Jamey Jasta from Hatebreed, who inevitably brings his hardcore background to the song, though the band remain technical behind him. If you're counting, that's three styles so far, each of which is built on technical thrash but doesn't stay there: Bay Area technical thrash, New York crossover and commercial gothic metal. Keep counting.

Those guests are a fascinating mix, so I should highlight them. Three are vocalists, but in different styles indeed. From Jasta's hardcore on Snob, they shift wildly to Spanish rapper Sho-Hai on What Kills Us All and Todd La Torre of prog metal legends Queensrÿche for Vultures and Butterflies. The fourth is a guitarist, Pablo García, best known for a heavy/power metal band called WarCry. That's quite a range and, for those wondering why one of these guys is a rapper, what Sho-Hai does here is fascinating. He almost sounds South American and there's a real Sepultura vibe to that track as it shifts into his territory during the second half. It has no pop element to it and his rapping style is fast, dangerous and a good fit. I don't say that too often.

Fire Eyes is a nice fast thrash song, so I don't know if García just plays along or whether that's him providing an elegant intro. There are more of those on To Whom It May Concern and Gernika, two songs without guests, so maybe not. It's not thrash at all during the midsection, instead a sort of heavy/prog metal song, with a very tasty guitar solo. It often reminds of Iron Maiden, as it did at points during the intro. Again, it has a big hookladen chorus, which only underlines just how much Maiden is on this song. Of course there's a heavy metal bias to Vultures and Butterflies, but it's a slightly more progressive one, as befits the guest.

So, how many genres are we up to now? I'm used to thrash albums lately delineating themselves in pace. There are bands playing old school proto-extreme metal with a thrash base, bands playing a relatively straightforward fast thrash and there are bands who have slowed down a lot and spend much of their time chugging at mid tempo. I have a personal bias towards the faster bands but I'm very nostalgic for that proto-extreme era and find a lot of those bands fascinating. It's chuggers I find less interesting, because the approach gets old for me.

Angelus Apatrida refuse to be thrown into any one of those buckets. They're closer to the middle one than the other two, and I'm happy for that as they blister nicely on songs like Scavenger, Fire Eyes and the instrumental parts of Rats. However, there are plenty of songs here that work at an overtly chuggier pace, Rats moving there during the verses, and others are happy to drop out of thrash entirely to become elegant heavy or prog metal, most obviously To Whom It May Concern, when it's not blistering as it does briefly.

That makes this a highly varied album and the variety really works in its favour. Instead of losing a listener like me by stubbornly sticking at mid tempo, they mix it up from track to track and often in individual songs. I'm good with the chuggy ones because it's not going to be long before there's a speedy part and I love those. I'm happiest there, but a drop into something else for a while keeps everything interesting, especially when they launch into another big hook of a chorus, then blister out of it with heads down and fingers flying.

In short, I like this a lot and, while I appreciate the faster songs the most, it's not as clear cut as I'd usually expect. I like the variety they bring to the table and that ought to translate really well into a live environment. They tour a lot, I believe, though I'm not sure they've made it over to this side of the pond, certainly not while I've been paying attention. I hope they do because I'd love to check them out live. In the meantime, I have seven previous albums to locate to see how they built to this style.

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