Arizona metal maniacs, Intent, formed in 2016, but you’d think they learned their craft in 2006 judging by their exquisite musicianship. With 2018’s debut LP, Vox Populi, under their belts, it appears that the disruption of Covid-19 slowed their momentum, but they return with album number two like a new state-of-the art tank waiting for action on the battlefield. They promise a quick and efficient victory, but war is never as clear cut as the generals planning it.
Intent play thrash metal. No other genre comes to mind when listening to Exile. One assumes the band’s only goal is to play the fiercest thrash on the planet. Opener, ‘Victims of Conquest’, starts with a succession of riffs that would need no time in front of a blade-sharpener. The realistic drum snare sounds like it should – loud and violent without being drowned in reverb. Here, Jeremy Lambert’s vocals recall Matt Drake (ex-Evile) with a hint of Tom Araya in their high-pitched shouting inhalation. They must burn through a thousand notes before we even get to the vocals. This music is relentless in its precision-based rhythmic onslaught. You can hear Forbidden and Sacred Reich in the title-track, but ‘Shallow Earth’ draws upon the iconic early works of Slayer for its purpose. No superlative is deserving enough to describe the stupendous performance of drummer, Garrett Loper. You can listen to this album for his work alone, just as you can enjoy Slayer’s South of Heaven for the same reason. His double-kick approach will remind you of Chris Kontos on Machine Head’s Burn My Eyes – the crispy bass thuds pulsate with a high treble mastering rare in metal these days.
Of course, the main focus of thrash metal is the guitar assault. Laithan Bellavance and Jeremy Lambert love their extended intros and the speed of their plectrums hacking away at their strings like James Hetfield in his prime. It takes until track four (‘Primal Instinct’) for a chance to catch your breath in the maelstrom of hurricane riffing and heroic axe work, but even this soon evolves into a finger-tapping extravaganza. The rhythmic prowess of this band is world class, but they have a habit of stretching their songs beyond their natural duration on ‘Primal Instinct’ and ‘5th Column’. Both of these contain some of the deadliest thrash riffs this side of early Megadeth, but they overstay their welcome. There’s a reason why Reign in Blood is less than thirty minutes – because it doesn’t need a second more to achieve its aim. To their credit, Intent allow you to recover in the last third with an embrace of the chugging mid-tempo thrash that makes the current Vio-lence EP such an enthralling listen. ‘Time’ threatens an explosion of fast tempos, but the guitarists keep things throbbing with palm-muted vehemence. You could even call Intent the Decapitated of thrash metal in the way they overwhelm you with a cacophony of sharp guitar incursions.
Exile is a record that will devastate you with its formidable might, but its duration can be exhaustive unless you pace yourself. A few anxious glances at your watch towards the end prevent you from getting the most out of it, despite its high pedigree. How they keep up this level of manic intensity for forty minutes is admirable, but album number three will need more variation to make it an instant classic. This is an impressive sophomore album, but it could have been even better with less flab.
Release Date: 26/08/2022
Record Label: Self Released
Standout tracks: Victims of Conquest, Shallow Earth, Time
Suggested Further Listening: Haxon – Wrath of an Era (2020), Helgrind – Insurrection (2021), Flayed Disciple – A Hell in Living Flesh EP (2022)