I have to admit to being surprised that this young Norwegian thrash act has got signed to Indie Recordings so quickly, this coming on the back of me watching their very nervous performance at Bloodstock Open Air in 2017 on the New Blood Stage. However they have very clearly improved and proved me absolutely wrong with this debut album that is as bold and ambitious as any thrash metal release I’ve heard this decade, and I am not exaggerating.
Vorbid are progressive that is undeniable but what makes them stand out is their song writing which sees them taking the essentials of thrash but distil and crystallise it into their own unique brand of musicianship which is nothing short of jaw dropping throughout the album. With only five tracks you’d think it was an EP but it is an album spanning 50 minutes and whilst album durations are moot for some people they are not for me as they can have a huge effect on the listening experience and momentum. The album is conceptualised around human behaviour and thinking which you read into yourself. What you notice the moment “If There’s Evil (There’s People)” starts is the production which is exceptionally rich and organic, possessing depth and potent power and the band makes a real statement of intent with the aspiring song writing that sees the song go through various transformations via a multitude of riffs and hooks. Coupled to all this is the excellent bass and drum work in the rhythm section that has real weight and density and when you get the sumptuous lead work of which this album is littered with then this album is a thrash fans cornucopia.
“Zombie” has some fine fret gymnastics to kick it off that wouldn’t be remiss on a Death album as the switch to the songs main riff had me thinking about Megadeth due to the punching beats and succinct playing that is linked to the excellent pulsing drum work that sees the song ratchet up the pace with the flooding double bass. The oblique drop in pace for a bass run allows the song to exude its progressivity charisma in reams with the musicianship allowing each to be focused on when required. I must admit I did struggle with the high end vocals but in truth they suit the urgency of the music and are solely dependent on taste and don’t detract from the enjoyment of the album overall.
The guitar playing on this album is exceptional, and even though I am not a musician it is patently clear that at the moment this band is currently simmering ready to explode. Case in point is the high energy but complex “Invention Intervention” which has a disparate beat that is difficult to pin down as the guitarist pirouettes around the song with a myriad of riffs and hooks all interweaved by the driving drum work and sublime leads that all links nicely into the penultimate song “To Mega Therion”. The opening riff to it is very 1980s and comes across as very familiar but it is the vibe not the riff that is familiar as the song has a vibrant aura manifested as a relatively succinct and rapid fire thrash tune that allows the drums to take focus here with copious fills and cymbal emphases.
Now after those four tracks (I would normally write about every song on an album but this album deserves it) that only leaves the majestic and colossal title track which spans over 23 minutes, yes you read that right and in my collection that is the longest thrash song I have and I’ll be honest I worried tremendously that the song would have repetitive phases but it does not except for periodic reinitialising for the next section. Ambitious just doesn’t seem a long enough or apt word to describe the complexity and outright enthralling nature this composition conjures from the moment it starts with a semi acoustic piece that leads into a beautiful lead solo that could have come from a classic 70s or 80s rock album as the phase is elongated and breath-taking. As the song evolves the guitar work pours over you with shrouds of magisterial eloquence as you’ll find drifting along with it until the riff change which is so cohesively done you hardly notice. The song gradually and sequentially intensifies layering the musicality slowly but with brilliant efficiency without a vocal to be heard in the first four to five minutes. The apical and nadiral fluctuations in power are effortlessly executed and when combined with the emotive melodic guitar segues the result is heartrending. The song really isn’t wholly thrash except for the occasional flurry of speed as it is much more than that. Consider the more opulent early thrash epics by Metallica, the progressivity of Megadeth’s guitar craftsmanship or the adroitness of Maiden’s triple guitar salvo to the heroic guitar work of the Tipton and Downing (Judas Priest) partnership as that is where this song is situated and whilst I’d be remiss to say it equals those bands the objective is patently clear. Half way in the song abruptly changes focus by delivering one of those flurries of speed with a straight up thrash assault that is relatively short lived. Vocally they are the only steadfast aspect on the album that doesn’t change and on this tune they remain with the harsh high end tone which works in allowing the music to take focus as the lead breaks arrive in wave after wave. I could write about this song for pages it is wholly immersive, brimming with ideas that have been brought together into one astounding composition that any metal fan should hear and all thrashers must along with the rest of the album. I have reserved my score at a 9 as I honestly think this band is at the start of their journey and if they continue to write like this we are looking at an act that could be huge.
(9/10 Martin Harris)