Luxembourg thrashers, Scarlet Anger, look like a gang of blue-collar workers who play heavy metal in their spare time. Their last album came out in 2016 which makes their third LP, Martyr, even more interesting. If you like Teutonic thrash with a sprinkle of melancholia, you’ll enjoy this record.
Opener, ‘The Destroyer’, is a good way to announce your return after eight years away from the scene. Its dramatic use of harmonic minor guitars and tension-building drums shift into a classic Bay Area onslaught with alternate-palm muted riffs that grate like trapped flies trying to escape the confines of a plastic bottle. Joe Block’s vocals are menacing enough to sound like a proto-death metal snarl. Take a step back. You can hear the dual guitar textures of Paradise Lost circa Icon in the chorus. Listen to the gallop of the middle-eight as the guitars assume a martial stance – these riffs are sharper than an 80mph bend in third gear.
Fans of the band will already know ‘No Time’ as one of the three singles preceding the release of this album. It lives up to its title. A boisterous slam of guitars and drums in the opening passage leaves you in the eye of a hurricane before the band settle into an agitated stitch of vocal anguish. The timbres of this music are as red as they are black. Scarlet Anger are not ashamed to burnish their traditional metal credentials, either. They like to anchor their songs around memorable verses and chorus repetitions, yet you never quite know what they will insert into the gaps between these focal points. Close your eyes and it could be Nick Holmes on the microphone in his earlier days. Joe Block’s frothing mouth aches in anxiety and roars with venom.
Scarlet Anger are not afraid to start their songs like Chicago legends, Trouble. The layered guitars navigate towards a central riff after an extended intro in the title-track. Often, the verses are as anthemic as the chorus rituals Drums batter their snare skins like excited spectators at a public execution. The guitar solos rip through their scales in homage to Megadeth. You can assume this band’s main influences are mid-90s Paradise Lost and late 80s Kreator. A palm-muted motif fades in like an oncoming plane collision in ‘Akrasia’. Here, the lead guitarist uses the higher reaches of his fretboard to unearth subtle melodies Thrash metal executed with great precision and wide-eyed admiration for the genre’s forefather will not change the musical landscape, but that does not detract you from its pleasing effect on the senses. Grab a beer, let your neck muscles gather momentum, and be ready to throttle your air guitar.
Perhaps the greatest achievement of this LP is its ability to keep you onboard for the entirety of its thirty-five minutes. Seven songs might sound like a paltry affair after eight years away, but this record needs no more or less. Scarlet Anger have vintage Metallica in their sights on ‘Hunger’. They won’t be the last to pay homage to the most successful metal band of all time. Rod Sovilla’s skank beats will accelerate your levels of adrenaline like a divine spur to action. Only on ‘Divided’ does it feel like a tribute to the greats of Teutonic thrash. But we’ll always need custodians of the genre and should not complain when the music encourages you to raise a fist and bang your head in savage delight.
Closing track, ‘Behind the Mask’, is a triumph of perseverance. Moody guitars pick the notes of their arpeggio formations in clean mode and with a scepticism common in the music of Xentrix and Evile Why is thrash metal easier to appreciate than death metal? Is it a scarcity issue? The underground has an abundance of Bolt Thrower and Suffocation clones out there with nothing new to offer, and there’s no shortage of Slayer rip offs doing the rounds in thrash. Scarlet Anger operate with guitar rhythms that pulsate like machine guns and avoid monotonous repetition. Maybe that’s the answer. Not everything they do will surprise you, but you can rely on them to complete the job with ruthless efficiency.
Release Date: 20/01/2024
Record Label: Self-released
Standout tracks: No Time, Martyr, Behind the Mask
Suggested Further Listening: Kreator – Renewal (1992), Paradise Lost – Icon (1993), Detritus – Myths (2021)