When you think of Luxembourg, you don’t automatically think of aggressive-as-fuck thrash metal. No sir. You’re more likely to think of likely to think of fat, profligate bankers lolling around mountainside coffee tables thinking of ever more elaborate ways to grind us poor working folks’ noses into the ground: after all, it is one of the three founding states of what is now the EU, the world’s second largest investment fund centre, the most important private banking centre in the Eurozone (complete with obligatory secrecy laws) and Europe’s leading centre for re-insurance companies.
Which is probably why these particular five Luxembourgers are seeing red (geddit?) and determined to put their little landlocked country on the map for all together more positive reasons – and they certainly have put their best foot forward right from the off, recruiting no less a personage than Annihilator leader Jeff Waters to master this debut opus (production and mixing duties having been handled by guitarist Fred Molitor at the band’s own studio).
‘Dark Reign’ is split into two ‘chapters’, reflecting the fact that it was recorded in two very distinct parts – the first, ‘Kill The King’ actually recorded a full two years ago and released as an EP last year, to which has been added the newer second half, aptly titled ‘…The King Is Dead, Long Live The King’.
Right from the thunderous opener ‘New God Rising’ it is clear that there is a new force rising in European thrash. The track kicks in with a classic mid-paced twin guitar riffs from Molitar and Jeff Buchette, which is quickly augmented by a complementary kick drum pick up from Alain Flemmang: the song speeds up as Joe Block’s almost compulsory snarling vocal kicks in with the appropriate mix of acerbic anger and viciousness. All in all, it really sets the scene for what is to come – classic thrash metal very much in both the Bay Area and European modes… ‘My Battlefield’, for example, is characterized by a riff and (too short) solo straight out of Metallica’s early songbook.
But, while the influences are (sometimes all too painfully) clear, Scarlet Anger also stamp their own identity on this impressive debut, primarily through the ever-effective and often imaginatively complex work of the two guitarists (as evidenced early on with ‘From Fool To King’ and ‘Game Over’ – the latter one of the album’s definite highlights – and which develops further in the album’s more recent, and therefore more mature, second half), coupled with Block’s distinctive vocal style, which veers close to death metal growling but in a way which makes his delivery, and so that of the songs as a whole, all the more listenable and lifts the material to a higher level than one might have first expected.
As I said, the second half, by virtue of being recorded somewhat later, is more mature, but in a way which complements rather than contrasts with what has gone before: the likes of the title track and ‘Follow The Order’ are faster, heavier and darker, and more brutal in their delivery, but still retain the melodic sensibilities of the earlier material. However, the assault of the likes of ‘A Tale Of Hate’ point out some of the weaknesses – ie derivativeness – of the older tracks, as the songwriting progresses: but, they also are a worthy exercise in showing a band developing their own sound and identity.
All in all, this is a commanding debut from a band who may be relatively new on the scene but already are well on their way to proving to be masters of their craft. A deserved and laudable 8/10.
Chapter 1: Kill The King…
1. New God Rising
2. My Battlefield
3. From Fool To King
4. Game Over
5. Face Of Evil
Chapter II: …The King Is Dead, Long Live The King
6. Dark Reign
7. Follow The Order
8. A Tale Of Hate
9. Prince Of The Night
11. My Empire Coming Down
12. Scarlet (demo)
‘Dark Reign’ is available now on Dust On The Tracks Records / MIG Music