In an era when metal has taken on so many forms it’s somehow comforting to think back to thrash metal as one of the genre’s purest. Who can argue with Fistful of Metal, Feel The Fire and Kill ‘Em All? It felt like thrash and metal were one and the same thing until eventually Metallica brought the house down on the whole thing (thanks, Lars)….. For me, the kind of thrash metal Vulture is peddling is something I find hard to separate from any other nostalgia trip, for that reason alone it’s hard to take entirely seriously, but still a return to the good old days whatever else it might be. What’s interesting is that everyone involved in the scene that re-evolved over the past two decades seems to have been adhering to a code that respects the genre’s roots and broadly sticks to the rule book – one rooted in or around 1985 (let’s call it the Days of Lilker)… And so we come to Vulture’s Ghastly Waves & Battered Graves.
Yes, if we’re going to have this never-ending homage to a musical genre – which in three or four years will be entering its fifth decade – let’s make it a respectable one. So thank the lords of the mosh pit for a band like Germany’s Vulture who unashamedly adhere to the aforementioned unwritten code of thrash while maintaining a quality that would undoubtedly have put them in the thick of it, if only it was 34 years ago. Recently signed to Metal Blade fresh after 2017’s The Guillotine scored them some fine reviews, Vulture are on a bit of a roll. Gang chants; crazed vocals (Neil Turpin meets John Cyriis), cock-sure solos and riffs that scream underground basement clubs and even flirt with occasional melody. It’s all here for anyone who was wondering what it was all about or has been enjoying this extended revival.
It’s a genre whose what-the-f*ck-is-this-playing-on-my-big-brothers-stereo essence I always feel is pretty hard to recapture for modern day audiences but Vulture’s defining coup is remembering honesty can brush aside all scepticism and, while speed-thrash opener Fed to Sharks actually turned out to be one of my least favourite tracks on the album (leading to three or four false starts with this just based on that and a quick flick thought the tracks), the commitment to the cause shines through early on. Some very smooth lead guitar twiddling (far more considered and controlled than I ever remember from those early thrash releases) and some very tight, driving pure thrash breaks carry us through nicely, however, and by the time we get to the blistering Beyond The Blade (via an oddly mid-paced second track The Garotte) it feels like the wheels are well oiled and we’re even treated to some falsetto that would prick up the ears of King Diamond fans as vocalist L Steeler shows of his formidable range.
Now, there are times when those vocals distract too much – slightly too chaotic with a little too much, well, just too much. So much so that when the solo first arrives in the title track it feels like a relief. But I can understand that these vocals are going to be a make or break thing or something that eventually just blends in with the music in fact they seem to work much better on the album’s slowest track Dewer’s Hollow and even more so on the flat out following track Tyrantula – the point in the album when things took a bit of a turn for me and get into something more downright enjoyable and, er, thrashy.
Thrash metal’s ultimate limitations are clear (and there is a reason that Metallica was able to come along and blew the whole genre out of the water not once, not twice but four times with successive albums) and frankly when you’ve heard Reign in Blood and Rust in Peace it’s kind of difficult to go back and revisit these kind of party-in-the-garage days. But, when thrash is good, there’s still no beating it for sheer exuberance and joyful release and any time band’s like Vulture want to take me on a trip down memory lane then that fine too. It still sounds great and in the hands of bands like Vulture it will do for some time to come.
(7/10 Reverend Darkstanley)