Any metal band from the Bay Area will grab the attention of Scream Blast Repeat, especially one from Machine Head’s home city of Oakland. This part of San Francisco is synonymous with thrash metal, just as Bergen is associated with the home of black metal. No shortage of quality bands come out of California, and Thanatopsis strengthen this hypothesis with their debut album.
But this isn’t just any album. This is a rejuvenated Thanatopsis reformed and ready to give their four demos from 1993-1997 the proper treatment they deserve. In other words, they’re eager to pick up where they left off in the late-90s to show the metal world how their brand of death-thrash is still relevant in 2020.
On ‘Age of Silence’ and ‘Embodiment’ they pull no punches with a cacophonous blast of grinding thrash riffs and double-kick drum deviance. You’ll look up at the ceiling with a finger on your chin with an observation: If Prong played death metal, maybe this is what they’d sound like. But it’s never easy to define the Thanatopsis brand of metal. ‘Consequence’ owes as much to Destruction as Slayer and ‘Initiation’ is like Kirk Windstein of Crowbar fronting a progressive thrash band with lead bass and dynamic shifts that Chuck Schuldiner would appreciate. There’s more here than fast guitar triplets and mechanical drums. Yes, we get the odd anthemic chorus on ‘Grim’, but the band also incorporate a Killing Joke/ Geordie Walker dissonance on ‘Malfated’ and coat it with a dose of 90s hardcore.
The strongest aspect of this record is the vocal performance of John Bishop. His vein-popping vitriol is like a POW holding out under the threat of torture. The fortitude is as admirable as the determination to exact vengeance on the tormentors strapping him to the chair. ‘Consequence’ will remind you of a more muscular version of Megadeth’s ‘Set the World Afire’ with the stomp of Slayer’s ‘War Ensemble’ and the might of an east coast crossover band. Closing track, ‘Suffersystem’ is just as frenetic with a nod to the Floridian death metal legends of the late 80s.
As a celebration of the band’s legacy, Initiation is an impressive debut, but the stakes are not as high when there is so much goodwill in the underground. Let’s not forget that most of these songs are re-recordings of demos from the 1990s. In this respect, Thanatopsis get a free pass. Most of us are thankful that an obscure band with great potential reformed for a second time and have the confidence to add their own flavour to contemporary metal.
This reviewer enjoyed the initiation and will await the band’s next release with enthusiasm.
Release Date: 23/10/2020
Record Label: Extreme Metal Music
Standout tracks: Age of Silence, Malfated, Grim
Suggested Further Listening: Death – Symbolic (1995), Psychosomatic – The Invisible Prison (2020), Prong – Beg to Differ (1990)