Detroit, Michigan’s Snafu have been hammering away at their thrash-punk sound since 2006 and got their break last year by signing to Phil Anselmo’s Housecore Records. Now on their third full length LP and first since 2015’s Present Day Plague, the quartet have also secured a European distribution for Exile // Banishment via Nuclear Blast. Clearly, things are looking up for Snafu, but is it their integrity rather than originality that’s responsible for this wider exposure?
Snafu are one of those underground artists you nod your head to when they blast through the PA at a pre-show concert for one of the elite stadium bands. If you’re feeling brave, you might even ask the guy next to you what they’re called. You won’t find any double-tracked vocals or typewriter drums here, but the bassist has a big part to play in the mix, and the guitars are an overloaded mess of crossover thrash. In other words, metallic hardcore with a big debt to Slayer and Cro-Mags.
Only one word comes to mind after opener, ‘Eyes of Your God, sounds its last note: destroy. Snafu enjoy the violent uncertainty of their instruments and care nothing for mastering them when they can just as easily manipulate them like Molotov cocktails. ‘The Pear of Anguish’ will appeal to fans of Power Trip with its mix of thrash grooves and hardcore stomp. Listen to that churning bass guitar and screeching feedback underneath the main assault. It’s muscular, hostile, and as self-destructive as a pack of cigarettes after a liver transplant. Sepultura’s poor 2003 effort, Roorback, would have sounded much better if it had a song like ‘Choking Game’ as its anchor.
It’s true that you can write off at least three cuts here as Slayer covering their favourite punk 45s – ‘Monarch’, ‘Closed Casket Habits’ and ‘Amazing Waste’ will be much better in a live setting. On record, they make for likeable tracks that lack any semblance of originality. Indeed, Snafu are at their best when they offer a slab of old school death metal with crusty thrash aggression, like on standout song, ‘No Rites (For the Less Dead)’. Now this is a fucking tune, and one that Toxic Holocaust’s Joel Grind brings to life at the mastering desk with great expertise.
At thirty-four minutes in length, Exile // Banishment is in no danger of losing your attention. Scott Curnow and Rian Staber show they’re not averse to the more spacious guitar musings of prog metal on the closing title track. You didn’t dare check your wristwatch, did you? The vocals here are agonising, and the hardcore thrash is just as pulsating when the music reaches boiling point. Indeed, your only reservation about this record is how easy it passes through your ears. We come back to that word integrity – Snafu have it in abundance, and you can’t help but like them for this reason.
As a debut for Nuclear Blast Europe and a showcase release for Phil Anselmo’s Housecore Records, Exile // Banishment is a little underwhelming. But when you ask the question whether you’d turn it off mid-album, the answer is an unequivocal no. Snafu are street soldiers and veteran purveyors of the no-nonsense crossover thrash we all need in our record collection.
Release Date: 15/10/2021
Standout tracks: Eyes of Your God, The Pear of Anguish, No Rites (For the Less Dead)
Suggested Further Listening: Trappist / Connoisseur – Cross Faded (2021), Slayer – Divine Intervention (1994), Enforced – Kill Grid (2021)