French thrash brawlers, Heart Attack, have a name that suggests their main purpose is to indulge in heavy metal posturing and rock & roll playacting. Thankfully, the Nuclear Blast spin-off label, Atomic Fire, heard their 2017 album and signed them to their roster. Their aim is to push them to a wider audience with a clear message that this band can indulge your wildest Machine Head and Gojira fantasies, while inserting a little groove into their muscular riffing. Supporting Megadeth, Opeth and Trivium did the quartet no harm, either. Heart Attack love the emotional theatrics of a guitar solo, but they make sure to slice through your veins in the process.
Unlike most bands of the groove metal sub-genre, the Frenchmen do not worship at the altar of the 1990s. True, they touch upon Sepultura’s Roots album with their opening salvo of digeridoos and children’s choir harmonies, but the guitars that build from here are mid-range and not reliant on the rolling finger-work to manipulate the drop-tuned strings. The cymbal crashes are more dramatic than usual, the tension exciting. When they do unleash the thrash on ‘Septic Melody’, it’s the thrash of Destruction with the same violent stabs of staccato pounding Metallica reserve for the end of ‘Battery’. How refreshing it is to hear a mixture of gang vocals and malevolent growls over the top of extravagant (but brutal) guitar rhythms. It’s technical but not overindulgent, just like the approach on ‘Wings of Judgement’, which lands in the mid-1990s for one of the few times on the record. This is what thrash metal should have sounded like in the era of Jacques Chirac and Bill Clinton if its most successful progenitors had not fished for their catch in the shallow waters of nu metal.
You might think there’s little room to experiment at the crossroads between early Metallica and Machine Head, but Heart Attack try their best to extricate their music from the predictable. ‘World Consumption’ thrives on a magnificent conversation between the alt-picking guitar chugs and double-kick beats but switches from Warbringer to Wombbath in the chorus and resets the tempo at the half-way mark to explore more colourful textures. The gothic melodrama in the chorus to ‘Take Your Pride Back’ is just as riveting. They receive no admonishment from this reviewer for including a heavenly choir harmony in the middle-eight. And how can you criticise the risk they take on ‘The Messenger’ by combining the gang vocals and muscle of Biohazard with the pentatonic death metal of Carcass?
Only a few minor flaws stop Negative Sun from reaching its true potential. ‘Twisted Sacrifice’ is too much like Slayer’s ‘God Hates Us All’. It might have been better as a cover, despite the ferocious guest spot from Decapitated’s Rafal ‘Rasta’ Piotrowski. Likewise, ‘Bound to this Land’ never emancipates beyond the status of a Lamb of God pastiche, and the cover of ‘Jesus He Knows Me’ by Genesis is a silly way to end the album.
Nonetheless, Heart Attack prove once more that the quality of metal in the French Fifth Republic is stronger than ever. A joint tour of Europe and the UK with Belgium’s Evil Invaders or Hungary’s Ektomorf would be good value for money if they could make it happen.
Release Date: 10/06/2022
Record Label: Atomic Fire Records
Standout tracks: Septic Melody, World Consumption, Take Your Pride Back
Suggested Further Listening: Akrasia – Act of Will (2022), Without Mercy – Seismic (2020), Brotality – The Woods Will End You (2022)