For more than twelve years, California’s Warbringer have been honing their thrash metal chops. Between 2008 and 2013 the band released four albums, before trouble stuck in 2014, seeing the departure of two key members. Woe to the Vanquished is their first album since, and showcases all that the band stands for – both good and bad.
“Silhouettes” leads off in stellar fashion, showcasing the best everyone in the band has to offer. It’s a kick-ass dose of modern thrash, with staccato riffs, monstrous rhythm, and excellent hardore/thrash vocals courtesy John Kevill, who sings with more fury and passion throughout the album than the majority of his peers.
Most thrash acts these days are one trick ponies: they’ll throw an assortment of riffs at you, but all in the same key, with the same tempo, and the same arrangement. Not these guys, and that’s why they shine. Woe to the Vanquished is one of the most diverse thrash albums I’ve heard in ages. Only half of the eight songs here are straight-up thrash – although they kick butt, mixing great riffs, occasional blast beats, and lightning-fast lead breaks. It’s the other songs where Warbringer stand out.
“Remain Violent” is a great groove metal song, with a chorus that will make you chuckle – “You have the right to remain violent.” “Descending Blade” opens with a flanged guitar riff that builds slowly and eventually breaks into a thrashy gallop. The album closes with an eleven minute epic “When the Guns Fell Silent,” a song which Iron Maiden would be proud to have written.
Not only have Warbringer written a diverse album, they’ve ensured it’s produced impeccably. There is massive bottom end throughout, not just with occasional effects, but the entire drum kit packs a ton of punch. It’s a loud album, as most are these days, but the music sounds amazing. Perhaps the only room for improvement would be to dial back on the vocals, which are a bit too far out in front of the mix.
And that’s where the only real flaw comes in for Warbringer. While Kevill has a great thrash voice, tinged with hardcore and punk influences, it never varies. Every lyric in every song is sung with the same emphasis, but there are tons of places throughout where some dynamics would really carry the songs to the next level, especially on “Spectral Asylum” and “Where the Guns Fell Silent.”
Aside from that quibble, Warbringer have given us a great thrash record, one whose pacing and songwriting will keep it high on many playlists. Woe to the Vanquished is a tasty buffet of everything one needs: speed, riffs, groove, and plenty of changeups to keep it interesting throughout.
(released March 31, 2017 on Napalm Records)