Chemicaust’s debut LP oozes themes of chemical warfare, mutually assured destruction, and nuclear-fulled egos. Unleashed Upon This World adds another release to the collection of new-wave-of-American-thrash bands to the likes of Warbringer, Havok, and Municipal Waste that all choose that oh-so-beloved ripping metal style coupled with a “cartoony ‘80s” album art aesthetic.
Hailing from The Lone Star State, Chemicaust treads within contested waters. While bigger names from the area such as the godly Power Trip have considerably risen in popularity, the state has had a booming underground metal scene since the invention of thrash with bands like Exhorder and Gammacide carrying the flag. While Texas has always been known for being on the conservative side and having an audience that caters to country music, an uprising has been brewing within the dark depths of the state’s beer bottle and shotgun shell ridden waters.
Such an uprising is currently being flagged by Chemicaust, one of the state’s newest ripping quartets. While they are fresh out of the gates with little more than an EP and a full-length under their belts, they play a style of music very similar to the greats that came before them in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. They are certainly highly comparable to those thrashers who play at a middle-of-the-road tempo; not too fast, not too slow. Demolition Hammer is undoubtedly a burrowed influence on these Texas thrashers, which can be seen through the presented groovy guitar style and the emphasis on melodic solos. One of my favourite qualities of Demolition Hammer’s music was that their guitar solo style oddly did not match the pace of their sound. Rather than being subjected to an increased barrage from the lead guitar, the listener was given a break to enjoy a relatively melodic solo. Chemicaust certainly carries through this quality, which I enjoy very much.
Their style is generally fairly eclectic, as they seem to draw influences from many corners of the metal sphere. While Demolition Hammer is clearly a contender, bands like Gammacide, Morbid Saint, and Death Angel have also clearly done a number on the group. Furthermore, “The Absurd Beautiful Lie” features a very Pantera-esque chuggy and seemingly-improvised introduction. Also, tracks like “Human Sacrifice” open with spoken word samples which, while certainly done before, break up the potential monotony of the standard song intro formula that tends to plague the thrash genre.
Death/thrash is kind of a scary place to be for a new group. All of the subgenre’s best titles were released way back when, and you really have to be top-notch if you want to stand out amongst the giants. The style of music leans towards a lack-of-care attitude yet a varied and flawless sonic output is mandatory for some form of spotlight. You can get away with gaining fame through a new look on the death metal genre (look at Slugdge’s output from earlier this year), or a new take on the expansive black metal genre, but the spectrum of death/thrash isn’t very wide as it already narrows down from the thrash metal archetype. Luckily, I feel like the quality of Unleashed Upon This World warrants the group a respectful spot on stage next to their older contemporaries.
I will say that I’m not the biggest fan of the album art. However, my reasoning doesn’t lie behind any sentiments of disgust regarding the gore on the cover and rather manifests as a result of the lack of creativity. I understand that such an image is simply for shock value, but there is no room for interpretation from the audience. I once learned from a mentor of mine that any form of art, be it writing, music, or film, should leave room for interpretation for the targeted audience. In observance of the cover art, one can quickly assimilate multiple themes: anti-chemical warfare and anti-military/police brutality. However, we don’t need the gore, the rotting faces, or the blatant firing squad of soldiers in the background to all be present for us to understand the image. Let me take a little from the album art, then a look through the lyrics so I can form my own opinion about the content or thematical goal of the album. The cover art simply comes off as juvenile and uninspired. Shock value doesn’t matter anymore, this isn’t 1985. This lack of inspiration leaks into the song titles as well, which offer little entertainment or creativity. Luckily however, the music does not offend with this quality as it is the highlight of this release (thankfully!).
I will close with a final note about the release’s production. While I would enjoy a little more bass within the mix, every other quality is brilliant and well-executed in that regard. The guitars are punchy but not overwhelming, the drums resonate well and don’t suffer from falling flat, and the vocals land within an appropriate volume range in comparison with the other instruments.
While this year hasn’t necessarily been the biggest year for the death/thrash or “brutal thrash” subgenre of metal, the lack of contemporaries doesn’t take way from the quality of this release. Unleashed Upon This World is a highly varied, well-done, and respectful addition to the grandiose catalogue of heavy thrashing titles from the years prior. While the album art and song titles could use a little more creative punch, the release plays smoothly and otherwise without a hitch, making it a contender for one of the best thrash releases of the year alongside groups like Oxygen Destroyer.