Vio-Lence – Let the World Burn EP
Metal Blade Records
Running Time: 24:00
Review by Paul Hutchings
Nostalgia. It’s something that is part and parcel of the Metal world. Is it possible to have a conversation with another metalhead without drifting back to “the good old days”? Well, when you get to your half century those times become more and more faded in the memory. When something that was pivotal to you over 30 years ago returns, there is unsurprisingly a certain amount of trepidation.
Where is he going with this, I hear you ask? Well, let me take you back to 1985 and Oakland, California. The Bay Area Thrash movement was in full swing, and Thrash bands were appearing like rain on a Welsh Bank Holiday weekend. Surging out as part of the second wave of Thrash was Vio-Lence, whose early line-ups included Phil Demmel, Sean Killian, Perry Strickland, and Robb Flynn (Machine Head). Vio-Lence released three albums before their breakup in 1993, with “Eternal Nightmare” and “Oppressing the Masses” held in high regard within the Thrash community. The band returned a couple of times before becoming a full-time going concern in 2019, where they returned to the live arena.
Now we finally have their first original material in 29 years in the shape of ‘Let the World Burn’, a five track EP that features Demmel, Strickland, Killian as well as new members Bobby Gustafson (ex-Overkill) and Christian Ober Wolbers (Powerflo, Beowülf, Fear Factory). The band has already released the title track plus ‘Flesh from Bone’ on lyric videos and now we finally get the chance to digest all five tracks.
The first thing to notice about Vio-Lence circa 2022 is that they’ve managed to retain that 80’s vibe which is often missing in today’s Thrash circles. Demmel has taken on the mantle of main songwriter, and he admits that the move to the classic Vio-Lence sound wasn’t a problem. “That came very naturally. I hadn’t written a lot of Thrash in the past 17 years or so but being the main songwriter for the band over the years I wanted that sound, I wanted that mid-80’s raw thing, but I also wanted to capture our signature notes and structures and stuff like that.”
But this isn’t a trek down memory lane for each song has its own contemporary feel. ‘Flesh from Bone’ doesn’t begin that brilliantly but soon erupts into a real Thrash monster. It’s a foot stomper of a song, with the bruising riffs charging along with Gustafson’s bludgeoning drumming and the thunderous bass line. This allows Killian to spit and snarl the lyrics over the top in a visceral performance, it may only be one track, but it’s already sounding promising and it’s a rager.
Can Vio-Lence keep the momentum up? The good news is yes, as ‘Screaming Always’ proves. A fast, punching semi-Hardcore attitude sees the tempo at full pelt, the vocals of Killian surprisingly impressive although I’m not over thrilled about the Rob Flynn-style rapping towards the end of the track. Killian has always been marmite vocally and it’s unlikely he’ll gather many new fans, but his style is his style and that’s what makes him unique. His delivery on the slower but just as heavy ‘Upon Their Cross’ is remarkable, given this is a singer who not so long ago was severely unwell.
The playing on this EP is as stellar as you’d expect from such musicians. Demmel as primary songwriter has delved deep into the Thrash roots, each song bringing something a little different to the table, but all inherently thrash in nature and vibe. Alongside Demmel, Gustafson’s years in Overkill are evident whilst Wolbers links tightly with Strickland to provide a rock-tight rhythm section.
It was always the band’s intention to release an EP rather than a full length and you only have to read some of the interviews with Killian to confirm why. Originally a one-off gig to say thanks to those who had supported his liver transplant, Vio-Lence realised that there was still an appetite for their music but that just exploring if the dynamic would work again was enough. The fact that they have managed to put some decent thrasher together is remarkable, especially when you consider the poor cover of ‘California Uber Alles’. The stomping drive of ‘Gato Negro’ brings a different attitude and sound, but at no point do the band veer too far from their old school sound. The title track closes the EP, and it’s another thrashing beast with visceral guitar work and Killian’s down the line delivery. The slow narrative echoes some of Dave Mustaine’s work, but it sits solidly within the song.
With festival appearances once again scheduled for 2022, including a highly anticipated booking with Bloodstock Open Air, there is an air of optimism in the camp. On a day when the world careered out of control once more, it’s good to know that the old school may still be able to bring some quality to the table.
‘Let The World Burn’ Official Video
01. Flesh from Bone
02. Screaming Always
03. Upon Their Cross
04. Gato Negro
05. Let the World Burn
Phil Demmel – Guitars
Bobby Gustafson – Guitars
Sean Killian – Vocals
Perry Strickland – Drums
Christian Olde Wolbers – Bass
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