I love old-school thrash as much as anybody, but the unfortunate fact is that very few newer thrash bands catch my ear these days. One that has, however, is Birmingham, England’s Eradikator, whose excellent 2011 album, ‘Dystopia,’ was reissued after attracting the attention of North Carolina’s Divebomb Records. What set Eradikator apart from the anonymous, faceless hordes of mediocre re-thrash acts was their proficient songwriting, their use of old-style thrash vocals (i.e., decipherable, and with character), and their ability to combine the Bay Area and British thrash sounds so convincingly. Honestly, ‘Dystopia’ was the closest thing I’d heard in many years to Xentrix ‘Shattered Existence,’ an album I hold close to my heart because it aped vintage Metallica (with a distinctly British twist, of course) at a time when Metallica were becoming seduced/corrupted by money and fame to explore more commercially lucrative realms. More than just cloning Metallica, ‘Dystopia’ also proudly waved the flag for British thrash/heavy bands past and present, from Toranaga and Slammer to Evile and Savage Messiah.
Needless to say, I was excited to hear what Eradikator had in mind for their follow-up, ‘Edge of Humanity,’ which Divebomb released this summer. The quartet’s lineup and core sound remain intact, just like Pat Cox’s slightly raspy take on that beloved ‘80s Hetfield roar. Like its predecessor, ‘Edge of Humanity’ kicks off with a barnburner (“Mesmerised”) and ends with a somewhat ponderous instrumental (“Kairos Passing”). In between, however, there are a few modifications afoot. Seemingly eager to avoid being written off as a one-dimensional thrash band, Eradikator have taken some chances here by repeatedly amping up the melodic quotient, slowing down the tempos, and introducing more dynamics into the music. “Astral Body” sounds something like Testament might have written circa ‘Souls of Black’ / ‘The Ritual,’ and even recalls better Trivium. (That’s not a dis, by the way. Though many metalheads are openly disdainful of Trivium, I like their ‘The Crusade’ album and selected other tracks.) “Edge of Humanity” starts off slow and lumbering, then gives way to a wicked thrash riff at around the 2:50 mark to pummel the listener into oblivion. “Seasons of Rage” is another midpaced stomper whose verses have that marching Accept quality. “Fortress Unknown” is unabashedly melodic and contemplative in places. You get the idea. ‘Edge of Humanity,’ while very much sounding like the Eradikator we know and love, has a certain maturity, a certain progression to it. Certainly, no one will confuse it with a balls-out thrash album.
Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing depends on where one stands, I suppose. The thrash-or-die brigade may be disappointed. I shouldn’t overstate the change, though. There are still ample hair-flailing, beer-drinking, mosh-pit-friendly thrash moments on display on ‘Edge of Humanity.’ Based on the likes of “Dead Hands of the Past” and “Mesmerised,” no one will be knocking on the MacNevin brothers’ front door demanding that they turn in their thrash metal credentials. But this album is unquestionably the work of a band that seeks to expand its sonic horizons and that appears to be chafing at the boundaries of thrash metal. Me, I don’t have a problem with it. Eradikator are a talented band, with the skill and the chops to pull off this more adventurous approach to the genre. What is really going to be fascinating to see is how Eradikator’s third album turns out. They haven’t stayed in one place thus far, so why would they start now?
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~