Shrapnel – Palace for the Insane


Forget about the Big Four of thrash, we need to talk about the Brit FourXentrix, Evile, Sylosis and Shrapnel. Taking the towns and cities they hail from we’d have Preston North End, Huddersfield Town, Reading and Norwich City in a mini football competition. Only the last one is a standing Premier League team, which is interesting and tells us everything we need to know – Norwich’s Shrapnel are a first-class outfit with the world at their feet. 

Palace For The Insane is their third album for Candlelight and a record that seems locked in a battle with Havok’s V for the 2020 thrash crown. Like their American counterparts, Shrapnel seem incapable of writing a mediocre song. Every ounce of energy, every strike of the double-kick drum, every alternate pick of the guitar packs a punch that would floor Mike Tyson. Do you want a song to rival Exodus blasting through their legendary ‘Piranha’? Try the awesome acceleration of ‘The Mace’. What about a tune with the fury of Anthrax’s ‘Gung Ho’? Say hello to ‘Violent Now, Forever’. Can they really rival something from Machine Head’s The Blackening? Well, ‘Infernal Choir’ certainly does.

Yet the songs mentioned above are not even the strongest in the pack. ‘Salt the Earth’ is like And Justice For All-era Metallica stomping through the middle lane with Sacred Reich in tow. As if operating a spinning jenny, drummer, Chris Williams, puts in the performance of his life with his footwork. Not to be undone, guitarists, Chris Martin and Nathan Sadd, treat us to a masterclass of metallic precision while vocalist, Aaran Jacky, reminds us what Prong might have sounded like if Tommy Victor had a better voice. No wonder they decided to promote this as their main single. 

Though not entirely original, Shrapnel are at their best when straying into the Megadeth canon for inspiration. ‘Turn Off The Lights’ illuminates with the swagger of Countdown to Extinction while standout track, ‘Begin Again’, teases us with an opening chord progression similar to ‘In My Darkest Hour’. This latter composition is a bona fide anthem for stadiums they’re unlikely to grace in today’s music industry, but it’s one hell of a fist-pumper for the metal brethren.

It’s difficult to find fault with Palace For The Insane. If we’re being harsh, we might say the lyrical themes in ‘Cannibal’ and ‘The Mace’ are a bit corny, but who doesn’t like a song glorifying a man-eating savage ripping the sinews from your neck? And credit should go to their record label for giving them three years to write and produce this album. This is what you get when you work to no deadline and build your songs to perfection. The thirteen cuts here could all be contenders for singles, not that any of them would enter the mainstream charts due to their utter savagery.

The end of year lists will be an interesting spectacle for 2020. Whatever happens, you can guarantee Shrapnel will be among the top artists.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 15/05/2020

Record Label: Candlelight/ Spinefarm

Standout tracks: Salt the Earth, Begin Again, Turn Off The Lights

Suggested Further Listening: Prong – Beg to Differ (1990), Evile – Infected Nations (2009), Havoc – V (2020)