Author: Larry Best
#FOR FANS OF Thrash Groove, Overkill
Heralding in the debut full-length from this self-described 'groove/thrash metal' band is one minute of clean, bluesy guitar licks. Unexpected, but certainly appropriate for the atmosphere this album is about to set in stone. Looking for exploratory, progressive thrash a la Heathen? Nope. Looking for speed-obsessed toxic thrash metal in the vein of Nuclear Assault or Carnivore? Sorry! What the listener is treated to here is a modern version of the oft-maligned mid-90s groove/thrash hybrid. Familiar with Overkill's 1993 opus "I Hear Black"? Well Deer Blood's 'Devolution' bears a strong similarity. For the most part, this bodes well and the album can really rollick along! However, there are a few bumps along the road... The first obstacle standing between this album and 100% enjoyability is the production job. 'Devolution' isn't raw in the pleasing, early-80s Megadeth kind of way. Its mix is just incredibly uneven. The drums are far too tinny and quiet, the guitar possesses too much treble, the bass is non-existent, and Alexandre Bourret's unimpressive voice is FAR too loud! Alright, so thrash metal vocals aren't supposed to be up to Fabio Lione standard, but there are many points where a pseudo-tough narration simply won't do. Either employ some attitude-filled barks like Tom Araya, or back off and let the riffs take charge. The riffs are where the band really shine. Not only are they memorable, but some of them are truly unique and are formed using scales and keys not often found within this sub-genre. The opening riff to "Trapped Inside" is notable for this characteristic. Sure, there's a lot of blues-scale raping, but they're played with so much gusto and enthusiasm that songs like the title-track become an absolute triumph. As well as proving his credentials as a competent riff-crafter, guitarist Julien Doucin isn't afraid to simplify when necessary, in order to enhance the rhythmic power (see the 1:57 mark in "Born Strong, Live Young, Die Hard, Born Again"). As a whole, the album is structured interestingly, with two lengthy thrash epics bookending the endeavour. These two tracks ("Bushmaster" and "Scared to the Bone"respectively) unfortunately don't shine anywhere near as much as the rest. The band's songwriting talent proves itself when the tracks are more structurally compact and concise. The occasional gang-shouts are indeed welcome, and remind me even more of Overkill's mid-90s phase. Whilst the artwork and imagery is nothing to celebrate, the band name is admittedly brilliant - and I hope they continue under this moniker. In a nutshell, what we have here is a pleasing fusion of Sanctity and mid-90s Overkill. As a whole, the vocals let down an otherwise fascinating, enjoyable and headbang-able first release. I look forward to a slightly bigger budget in the future - allowing for a cleaner production quality, more structural concision, and a vocalist who doesn't sound like an angry 14-year-old who lost his favourite Star Wars poster.