Dorset metallers, Deathblade, are a band that will invite jealousy, including from this reviewer. Most people at age twelve were playing video games or fretting about their place in the Sunday football team. Instead, Daniel Garner and his nephew, Ben Morris, were listening to classic thrash and learning their instruments while other kids were bunking off school. Now at the tender age of fourteen, they present us with their debut album, and it’s a riotous affair of riff-heavy proto-death metal from the golden era of 1983-84. They also self-produced it in their front room as if making a cassette for the tape-trading scene of yesteryear. If you’re not reading on from here, you’ve lost your love for metal.
It’s worth pointing out a few things before analysing the band’s self-titled debut. First of all, this sounds and feels more like a demo than a professional recording. The pre-programmed drums clatter with high frequency crash cymbals that are loud enough to wake Lazarus from the dead. As for the mix, it’s rough and chaotic, sometimes in an irksome way, other times in a glorious manner. Daniel Garner’s ongoing adolescence also works against him in that he has not the range or power to break out into a guttural death metal roar or convincing fry scream. Instead, he compensates by using a distortion effect for his voice, which can sound a little hollow at times.
Opener, ‘Raze Gomorrah’, starts with a brooding acoustic passage like Metallica’s ‘The Call of Ktulu’ and races through an extravaganza of thrash riffs with muddy drumbeats and a sludgy distortion that you couldn’t even produce if you tried to use a unidirectional microphone from the 1980s. It’s clear the boys love Kill ‘Em All, but the final product is more like a technical thrash version of the early Sodom records. Stretching it out as long as nine minutes is risky, but your goodwill is already resilient due to their tender age and infectious enthusiasm. After all, this is quality metal played in the spirit of Cliff Burton and Chuck Schuldiner. Who cares if the lads get carried away when they’re using their front room as a recording studio, right?
There’s no doubt the band have some impressive cuts in their repertoire. ‘Feverish Jurisprudence’ is an excellent feast of prime Megadeth in the days when they were a bunch of raging junkies. The technical musicianship is stunning for a trio of fourteen-year-old lads. Listen to ‘The Exorcism’, and you’ll want to dig out your Possessed albums once again. Garner and co-guitarist, Ewan Molineux, have a telepathic understanding when they get into gear and challenge their fretboards to blast out the nastiest thrash riffs known to Sepultura before they signed with Roadrunner Records in 1989.
The ten-minute head-bang of ‘Biblical Infamy’ is more of a riff soup than a riff salad and contains a beast of a hook straight from the hand of Kreator with its crunchy alt-picking technique. It might not be intentional, but the lead-playing has a similar tone and style to Gregor Mackintosh on Paradise Lost’s Gothic LP from 1991. Those pull offs and arpeggio patterns purr like a cat in the throes of a belly stroke.
The main drawback to this album is the Metallica worship. This is somewhat inevitable for a band so young, but ‘Undead Insurgency’ starts with the exact double-kick groove and syncopated slam of the breakdown in ‘One’, and the plagiarism of the main riff to ‘Blackened’ in the closing track is reductive rather than effective. Ending the journey with a fifteen-minute jam is a terrible idea when the listener is already losing patience with the long running time of the record. To be fair, Ben Morris’ jazz fusion bass work is exquisite on this last composition, but you might not make it this far after forty-five minutes.
Deathblade are a band that are still evolving and working out their own sound, but this LP has plenty of charm and much to commend it. These boys know their thrash metal and understand the spirit of the genre and could offer a lesson to some of the more established artists that lost their zeal over the last few years. Imagine what they can achieve in three years’ time…
Release Date: 03/09/2021
Record Label: Self Released
Standout tracks: Feverish Jurisprudence, The Exorcism, Biblical Infamy
Suggested Further Listening: Sepultura – Bestial Devastation EP (1985), Metallica – No Life ‘Till Leather [Demo] (1982), Sodom – Victims of Death [Demo] (1984)