Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Spellbound - Nothing But the Truth (2015)

While their first two records could hardly be dubbed impressive, Germans Spellbound have consistently proven to be purveyors of a fairly rare, lost art among the thrash crowd. That is to say, the full-package, dynamic songwriting style that birthed some of the largest names in the genre, Metallica at the foremost, but this was a skill often mirrored by other West Coast acts like Testament and at the very least attempted by bands worldwide, from Australia's Mortal Sin to England's Xentrix, to several of the Germans' countrymen, even if the faster, nastier Trinity of Teutonic Thrash held sway in that particular court. To be more specific, the composition's goals consist of big hooks, verse/chorus interplay, meticulously crafted leads that could hold their own with the rhythm riffing, enough of a neck jerking energy to keep them well within the genre's parameters, and approachable standards which held more of a mass appeal than the dirtnap speed and thrash existing on the niche's edge.

Nothing But the Truth accomplishes all of these to an extent, while rarely cocking up the formula that structures its more successful songs, a trait that sadly eluded the older efforts, which had only a scant handful of memorable cuts at best. The riffing is powerful, albeit familiar enough that a lot of the individual progressions will remind you of this or that and then twist it slightly away from the pure predictability a lot of us dread when listening to today's latest wave of pizza-thrashers. The leads here are very well balanced to offer an emotional payoff without completely outdistancing the blue collar, 'mellow' or melodic, mid-paced thrash rhythms that make up the bulk of the play length. When they pick up the thrust, you're remind purely of the picking patterns made famous by bands like Exodus, Testament or Metallica, but the overall mood here is 'steady wins the race', and that can often give this a laid back feel, sort of similar to New England's own Meliah Rage, only I feel like the writing here is a little more optimistic and immediately sticky on the ear. Reinforcing that comparison are the vocals of David Maier, melodic and edgy in the Hetfield vein which front men like Mike Munro, Chuck Billy and Mat Maurer ran off with.

The guitars sound great on this album, clear for the various leads, melodies and excess rock hero squeals while potent and punchy enough for a pit of intoxicated 40-somethings reliving their glory days, which I'd imagine might be the primary audience for this band, or those younglings who are trying to emulate that demographic. I happen to be among that first crowd, only somewhat less intoxicated on an average day, so I felt the pangs of nostalgia. Bass isn't a strong point here, but enough else is going on that you'll be distracted away from noticing, especially when the dozen or so really strong guitar riffs set off, forcing more replay value than I would have expected from my experience with either Nemesis 2665 or Incoming Destiny. There are a few slight misfires here, like the obligatory power-thrash ballad "Dying in the Dirt" which doesn't quite hit the payoff it wants to, however they aren't quite awful, and easily forgiven by the wealth of improvements they've made elsewhere. If you're into the more accessible spectrum of trad metal-tinted thrash I've mentioned above, or younger bands like Evile and After All, then this one is worth a listen.

Verdict: Win [7.25/10]


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