For Fans Of
There’s a statement frequently made within the metal community, which — while it may take on a wide variety of shapes and bastardised forms, like some chimeric beast of illogic — it essentially boils down to this: ‘Thrash is dead.’ For the long-hair purists (read: elitists), every riff that ever deserved to be riffed came to be in the hey-day of the 80’s & early 90’s, and anything from this side of the millennium is nothing but shitty music churned out by mere posers and copycats. In spite of such a profoundly untrue statement and one rife with fallacious reasoning, the neo-thrash movement has been toiling away for decades and reaping great rewards in recent years, by combining the traditional elements of thrash metal with crossover, death metal and extreme metal.
Newer groups like Municipal Waste, Toxic Holocaust, Havok, Iron Reagan, Lost Society, Warbringer and Vektor have all contributed heavily to this resurgence. Even well-established veterans like Anthrax, Death Angel, Slayer, Testament and Kreator have emerged relatively unscathed from the dark years of grunge and nu-metal popularity (unlike *cough, Metallica cough*), releasing critically-praised albums which simultaneously hearken back to their younger selves, and the newfound future of thrash longevity. And at the forefront of this revival — in feverish anticipation of imminent world domination — sits Texan crossover outfit, Power Trip.
With their second full-length record, ‘Nightmare Logic,’ Power Trip are finally poised to become a household name for metal-heads young and old alike. Tracks like ‘Heretic’s Fork,’ ‘Crossbreaker,’ and crowd-favourite ‘The Hammer of Doubt’ from the band’s 2013 debut album ‘Manifest Decimation,’ hinted at their penchant for creative transitions, ruthless speed and face-peeling solos. Yet true, great thrash has always rested on one, rock-solid foundation: memorable riffs. Fortunately, this is what sets ‘Nightmare Logic’ apart and rockets Power Trip right to the head of the pack — because it’s fucking overflowing with them.
If it’s hard riffs you want, then hard riffs you shall receive.
Opener ‘Soul Sacrifice’ starts with some haunting, unsettling atmospherics before a turbo-charged lead riff bursts through the mix. It’s a great introduction to ‘Nightmare Logic’ and it becomes obvious why Power Trip have been kicking off their chaotic live sets with this track for the last three years or so. The listener is treated to some heavy grooves, mammoth background dive-bombs and howling, reverb-soaked vocals, before running headfirst into Power Trip’s first bona fide thrash anthem: the duelling guitar revelry of ‘Executioner’s Tax (Swing of the Axe)’. It’s a total banger, complete with catchy lyrics, hypnotic rhythm-lead interplay and a choral, gang vocal chant of “Swing of the Axe!” that’s utterly infectious. Sounding like a suped-up version of ‘Ride The Lightning‘, it’s a song custom-built for hardcore thrash fans, primed for head-walking, stage-diving, circle pits and colossal walls-of-death.
In terms of production, Power Trip returned to producer/engineer Arthur Rizk (Inquisition, Pissgrave, Sumerlands) for ‘Nightmare Logic,’ and Rizk imbues this record with the sheen and crispness of the classic, mid-80’s records from The Big Four, while also retaining the dirt and grit that makes Power Trip’s thrash/death metal/hardcore hybrid so entertaining. The mix is very much riff-centric, with guitarists Blake “Rossover” Ibanez and Nicky “Thrasher” Stewart being clean, distinct and up-front. While veteran drummer Chris Ulsh (Hatred Surge, Mammoth Grinder, The Impalers) and vocalist/lyricist Riley Gale are soaked in reverb, to give the mix that gargantuan, epic scope, so that each blazing solo or neck-snapping riff sounds like cannon fire over a blood-drenched battlefield. Vocally, Gale sounds somewhat harsher and coarser than on previous releases, but this helps make each track sound more pained and brutal, rounding out the immediate, visceral impact of ‘Nightmare Logic’.
Shorter tracks like ‘Firing Squad’ and ‘Ruination’ showcase Power Trip’s aggressive nature, with quick and dirty blasts of fast-tempo, high-octane thrash. The former screams into the listener’s ear canal, with a concussive example of the Doppler effect, ripping open the track with a blistering solo, screeching high notes and a fantastic lead riff from Ibanez, which descends into full scale madness. The latter features a torrent of rumbling bottom-end from bassist Chris Whetzel, before cracking drums lead the charge and Gale issues a call to arms that’s echoed by a huge, gang vocal cry, declaring “Ruination/Wipe the whole slate clean!” The record’s title track sports a galloping lead riff, and syncopated drum march, as Gale postures for a sermon on political discourse and permanent struggle. Commanding that “Through the darkest depths, we will arise,” Gale juxtaposes his slightly optimistic tone against a backdrop of finger-melting, solo antics and a vast mid-section punctuated by dive-bombs and harmonised riffs.
In the record’s second half, the potential of Power Trip’s collective songwriting chops is finally realised, as the verse arrangements and transitions increase in complexity with spectacular results. ‘Waiting Around To Die’ gives the record time to breathe, with an ominous and foreboding synthesizer intro courtesy of industrial/noise powerhouse Prurient, which evokes the sensation of listening to a John Carpenter soundtrack in the middle of a vicious comedown. As the carnage accelerates, Gale holds nothing back and waxes lyrical with a derisive ode to apathy in all its pervasive forms, spitting venomous lines like “Say you’ve got the fire in you/Then show me what you got.” It’s enough to make even the laziest couch potato get off their arse, open their eyes and Get Schwifty. After the track’s ferocious finale, complete with a stomping breakdown, an eerily distorted, female voice sample warns that “Like fools, we can reject the truth, and push the truth away from us, and cause our own destruction.” This is the thesis statement of Gale’s lyrical exploits on ‘Nightmare Logic,’ and an effective message that’s less ‘alternative facts’ and more cold, hard truth.
The magnificent ‘If Not Us, Then Who’ recalls classic, 80’s Metallica, with a catchy chorus refrain and guest leads from Ulsh, while the track’s bridge section barrels ever forward, with frenetic, razor-sharp riffage and massive reverse-snare hits. However, closer ‘Crucifixation’ saves the best for last, with an absolutely savage intro and Gale’s lyrics dripping with contempt: “Territorial pissing contest, it sickens my nerves/Atrophy of morality, the people left to burn/A foregone conclusion, the lock before the key.” When a sudden drum break heralds the arrival of the record’s killer riff, the listener is propelled into a massive, head-bang inducing breakdown and swift, double-time shift, with additional leads courtesy of the record’s producer, Rizk himself.
Basically, this album is about as eye-opening and vein-popping as mainlining pure adrenaline.
Speaking about the rise of Power Trip back in 2014, blogger, hardcore-punk historian and self-proclaimed ‘King of Subculture’ James Khubiar wrote: “Power Trip is a thrash band. They are a good thrash band. What makes their ascension so transcendental is their aura… The band took everything that their predecessors did and took it to the next level… Aura is the currency in hardcore. It always has been and it always will be. Power Trip can always say they are a rich band.”
In that respect, ‘Nightmare Logic’ is by far Power Trip’s most bankable effort to date. It’s a record which will solidify their place among the veterans and legends of thrash, with catchy grooves, outstanding songwriting, stellar riffs and a level of urgency and intensity that’s simply unrivalled by their peers. If you only listen to one thrash record in 2017, do not sleep on ‘Nightmare Logic’.
- Soul Sacrifice
- Executioner’s Tax (Swing of the Axe)
- Firing Squad
- Nightmare Logic
- Waiting Around To Die
- If Not Us, Then Who
‘Nightmare Logic’ is available from February 24th through Southern Lord Records, and you can pre-order the record here. To watch a clip of Power Trip destroying an enthusiastic crowd in person last year, go here.