Warbringer – IV: Empires Collapse Album Review by Conor Wasson. Release Date 10-29-2013!

John Kevill
Album Review by: Conor Wasson!
I had never heard of Warbringer before I sat down to write this review, so I approached this with an open mind and a blank slate. Within thirty seconds or so (minus the intro to the opening track), I more or less had the gist of the album. These guys wear their influences on their sleeves, and don’t give a fuck about what you think of them. I’ll be frank: if you’re looking for sonic experimentation, a la Devin Townsend or Mastodon, go somewhere else. If you want to thrash your fucking balls off and fuck shit up, you’re in the right spot. Warbringer is pure 80’s thrash worship, and there’s not a goddamn thing wrong with that.
I’ll start with some general notes on the album and move on to a track-by-track breakdown. First off, and this is a point I’m going to come back to over and over, I was not a fan of the mixing of this album at all. The guitars sounded hollow and empty, and I had to struggle a bit to hear the solos over the rhythm guitar. On the flip side of this, the bass is phenomenal throughout the album. I have dabbled in some bass work myself, and I often feel that it is underutilized in the majority of metal. This is certainly not the case here; however, this album as a whole is missing the fullness that the bass normally adds to the guitar, so it is somewhat of a double edge sword. For the most part, the drums are fairly unremarkable, outside of a few songs, which I will note below. The vocals are more or less standard fare for a thrash band in the 2000’s; screechy and grating, with out a lot of low end. Perfect for this album. If you must have a comparison, Jon Kevill is fairly similar to David DiSanto of Vektor. The songs themselves are very straightforward. Intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, maybe another verse and chorus, outro. This leaves you with a sense of everything blending together, and not in a good way, especially since a lot of the riffs sound similar. Overall, this album is a great headbanger, and I mean fucking great, but it’s not doing much to break new ground, and is hampered by poor mixing and repetition.

Track by Track

            1. Horizon – The first thing that struck me was the clean intro, very much reminiscent of Ride the Lightening, Master of Puppets, and …And Justice For All. I simply chalk this up as a nod to their influences, and get ready for the real song to start. Immediately, you’re struck by the blistering speed. I mean, this shit is fucking FAST. There’s a little bit of melodic lead work overtop of the verse riff, which sounds really great together. The song rolls along fairly well until the first solo. This is where the problems really start: it’s QUIET. Like, to the point where if you’re listening with normal earbuds, you won’t get the full effect. Another thing I didn’t particularly like about this song was the clean/acoustic outro. When coupled with the clean intro, I felt like it kind of messed up the flow of the song.

            2. The Turning Of The Gears – I’ll catch a bit of flak for this comparison, but the intro to this song has some deathcore elements, in that the rhythm guitars play the same note in a repeating rhythm. The lead guitar has a pretty sweet part here as well, and I feel that they compliment each other very well, resulting in one of the more memorable moments on the album. The verse starts off without any guitar; just vocals, drums and bass, which let Kevill take over a bit more, to great effect. This song was much catchier than Horizon, and by the end I found myself singing (?) along to the chorus. Again, the poor mixing covers up some great soloing. Regardless, this remained one of my favorite tracks on the album.

            3.  One Dimension – This song is incredibly reminiscent of early Testament, so much so that it could have been released on The New Order. Regardless, it’s another song that’s great to thrash to. The chant style chorus is a tad cheesy, but it’s not really a big deal.

            4. Hunter-Seeker – This is the lead single off of this album, and is already out. If you want an idea of what you can expect from most of the album, hop on over to YouTube and give it a listen. It doesn’t do much to make itself stand out, although the opening solo is beyond sick. The vocals are mostly overshadowed by the (admittedly awesome) riffing throughout the song. Things go fairly well until the last 10 seconds, where Kevil hits you with this scream that makes me think his nuts shriveled up and retracted into his body. Mercifully, this is the only time on the album he does that.

            5. Black Sun, Black Moon – This track comes across as something of a filler. The only two notable parts are the “black sun, black moon” chants, followed by a sweet solo with an equally sweet bass line underneath.

            6. Scars Remain – This probably ended up being my favorite track on the album. Possibly the second fastest, it also has the best guitar tone on the album. It’s crunchy and full sounding, which is a great change. The bass loses a little of its edge, but the trade off is worth it, in my opinion. Around the midpoint, the two guitarists trade solos which, although still a little quiet, are fucking awesome anyway. Nearer to the end, the song hits you with a pair of tempo changes that feel natural, rather than forced. The bass comes out and does some really incredible work here as well.

            7. Dying Light – This song is nothing but Slayer worship, and there’s not a damn thing wrong with that. Seriously thought, the opening riff is literally Blood Red slowed down a bit. Even the song’s tempo seems pretty Seasons In The Abyss-esque, being noticeably slower than the rest of the album. A lot of the riffing sounds very similar as well, and even the solo is pretty Kerry King influenced.

            8. Iron City – I’d like to preface this statement by saying I am not a Megadeth fan. I hate Mustaine, his voice, and his ego, and don’t listen to them much, so feel free to correct me when I say this song sounds like he could have penned it himself. It doesn’t really matter though, as this is another one that makes you want to stand up and scream “IRON, IRON CITY” along. Once again, great bass lines under a solo that is overshadowed by the verse riff. I hate feeling like I’m repeating myself, but it’s kind of a pattern at this point.

            9. Leviathan – The verse riff for this song is absolutely crushing, and probably the heaviest on the album. This is another song that is slower than the rest of the album, until about the three-minute mark, where things pick up. This is one of the few times where I really felt like the drummer made his mark. The lead work is mixed significantly better than the rest of the album. This song is one of the few that gets away from the traditional song structure, and I feel that it is better off for it. Another of my favorites.

            10. Off With Their Heads! – I wasn’t going to include this at first, as I thought it was going to just be some sort of break or something. Nuh-uh, fuck that. This song has some of the best shredding on the album. I feel like it’s fairly reminiscent of songs of similar length on Slayer’s Reign In Blood, which ridiculous whammy-dives and an infectious main riff. Take the two minutes and enjoy this one, it’s worth it.

            11.  Towers Of The Serpent – Yet another song with great bass fills that has nothing else to really differentiate it from the rest of the album. Off With Their Heads! should have been the last track, as this kind of feels like a let-down. It’s another decent thrash song, but not what I would have picked for an album closer.

TL;DR: If you like old school thrash, you’ll love this. The guitarists are undeniably talented, as is the bassist; however, their performance suffers from poor mixing and mostly uninspired songwriting. Good, but not great, which nets a C+ in my book.

Recommended Songs:
Scars Remain
Off With Their Heads!
Leviathan
The Turning Of The Gears.

Release date: Tuesday, October 29, 2013
IV: Empires Collapse was recorded with producer Steve Evetts (Sepultura, The
Dillinger Escape Plan, Suicide Silence), mixed by Brett Eliason (Pearl Jam, Heart,
BoySetsFire) and mastered by Alan Douches / West West Side Music (Cannibal Corpse,
Hatebreed, Converge). The album's cover artwork was designed by Adrienne Rozzi.

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