SwitchtenseFormed in Moita, Setúbal, back in 2002, Portugal’s thrash machine Switchtense are set to unleash their third album on us. With a couple of EP’s, a split and a 10 year anniversary video recording, the band who have two full length releases under their belts are growing in strength. Usually album number three is the magic one, often gaining major attention (Master Of Puppets, Raining Blood, Peace Sells etc), let’s see if “Flesh & Bones” can count itself amongst their ranks.

Furious thrash from the off. The blistering riffs, pounding drums and booming bass give opener “All Or Nothing” a real intensity and despite the brief flashes into a slower groove, the track speeds ahead with fury. Venomous vocal delivery and a riff which sparks memories of Slayer’s ‘Angel Of Death’, its angry and it’s taking no prisoners. With the riffs, the bass and the wild solo, this track lives up to its name!

“Flesh & Bones” follows on with the intense musical delivery, bringing the anger by the truck load. With an edge to it similar to that of Marcus Aro era Haunted and Slayer’s fine form of the 80’s, it continues in the same vein as the opening effort, but with some added blasting drums just to up the heaviness. “Super Fucking Mainstream” has a real fast, loose and raw feel. Scathingly shouted vocals over a fast as hell musical backdrop. Cutting riffs and the thunderous bassline help the venom of the vocals going intense and the Slayer styled frantic solo really caps it, making this a truly fearsome track. I can only imagine how excellent this would be in a live setting!

“Walking On The Edge” has a feel of Exodus to it with the way the riffs simply roll off with minimal fuss. Simplistic, dramatic in the transitions and full of raw, in your face aggression, it brings a real headbanging groove which just keeps on giving. “Ignorance Is Bliss” goes back to the fury and venom which surfaced during ‘Super Fucking Mainstream’ and it smashes on in a similar manner. Harshly delivered vocals, a chaotic undercurrent and sheer intensity radiates and when you hear it, you’ll be anything but ignorant as its rhythmic assault relentlessly hammers away at you with the whiplash inducing windmill headbang friendly groove.

“Old Souls [There Are The Ones]” has that classic heavy thrash feel with a more modern edge to it. The thunderous riffery, relentless drums and hammering bassline combine with the raw vocals to maintain an aggressive edge but the real impact is the solo. Speeding up significantly, the dual guitar assault is entropy manifested through sound. Wild, chaotic, cutting, it slices through leaving nothing in its wake, and just when you think you’re safe, another shredfest is sent your way once more to set up the groove laden ending. A stunning track!

“Monsters” is like an F-16 taking off from an Aircraft Carrier. It launches itself head on at top speed into a sub-one minute suckerpunch hitting you where you least expect it. Whilst you reel from the hit of ‘Monsters’, “Six Feet Undergound” delivers the killing blow. With the pounding groove giving way to the thrashing riff onslaught, it really does live up to its title, burying you under the raw power of this album so far. Switching between thrashing riffs and heavy headbanging grooves, it gives something for everyone.

“One By One” brings back the 80’s Bay Area feel but with the modern European edge in its sound. Classic feel riffs with a modern aggression hit the spot perfectly, giving another track which would ignite a live crowd with just how energetic and explosive it is with the musical delivery, bringing plenty of headbanging riffs and flat out intense sections with no disruption of the flow. Closing the album is “Free Falling”. One last time, the booming bass and thunderous drums create a solid rhythmic foundation for the blistering Jeff Hanemann styled riffs to rip their way across. Windmill friendly grooves, harsh vocal deliveries give way to a more ominous breakdown section which brings a different kind of heaviness to the track with the sinister sounding riffs. Towards the end, the wild soloing returns, heralding another slowed down section following it, allowing yourself to catch your breath for the final blow of thrashing groove and intensity.

Overall, this is a fine thrash album. It’s compact with the delivery and has a great sound to it. Cutting leads, thunderous bass and drums and rapid riffs which spare no prisoners, all spearheaded by an intense vocal battery, Switchtense have thrown their hat into the ring for this year’s best thrash album, joining the likes of Megadeth, Lost Society and Destruction. This is a dark horse and one band you should not overlook.

(8.5/10 Fraggle)