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Fearless Walk To Rise

Mighty Music (2015)
Rating: 7/10

Now here’s a blast from the past! No Return is one of those very late 80s bands whose 1990 debut platter Psychological Torment I recall hearing, and enjoying the technical thrashing energy. Fearless Walk To Rise is the band’s ninth full-length album and the follow-up to 2012’s Inner Madness.

Some of the more technically gifted bands from the 80s and 90s have always had that ability to progress through the decades – avoiding fads and choosing their own direction – which is why the latest album from this French act fits nicely into the current scene. Although I’m often left cold by contemporary metal, there’s some modern dynamics here which really do work, allowing the instruments to remain crystal clear and the vocals to shine.

The vocals of Mick Caesare are a positive; he joined in 2013 and replaced L. Chuck D. The former singer had been a member for a three-year period, but when one flicks through the history of No Return we’ll find an outfit that has never had a settled formation. With only guitarist Alain Clément still remaining from the original line-up, No Return is something akin to death metal masters Death in that as an entity they seem more potent and inventive by constantly changing personnel. It’s no real surprise then that this new ten-track album is another masterclass in blending thrash and death metal.

There’s a nice varying of pace through this opus, the band finding an incredible progressive balance. This is most notable on ‘Stronger Than Ever’, which is littered with some fantastic guitar work and the ascending percussion of another relatively new member in the form of Joël Barbosa.

Fearless Walk To Rise is an album that will not be instant on the ears, mostly because of its complex arrangements and dehydrated vocal tones, but the more contemporary and, dare I say it, accessible side comes to the fore with tracks such as ‘Submission Falls’. Initially pacey with a stronger death metal vocal growl, the injection of melody on ‘Submission Falls’ – particularly in the voice – is a surprise, and not necessarily a welcome one.

As the album progresses there are some multi-layered moments which remind me of Coroner, particularly on ‘Face My Dark’, while ‘Bloodbath Legacy’ begins with a Slayer-esque brutality in its riffage. The latter is the best assault on the opus, charging out of the blocks rampantly and featuring some killer riffs and deathly vocal sneers. But No Return is never a band to sit with one style – even if the vocals rarely drift from their chesty sneer.

The mid-tempo intensity of ‘Sworn To Be’ is another top-notch track and again features a Slayer-styled attack, but while these guys are masters of their art for me there’s just not enough outstanding material. That’s not to say it all operates on the same level, because there are some excellent harmonious passages – again, I refer to ‘Sworn To Be’ – and segments of rushing ferocity, but although this is a skilful metal album, there appears to be a distinct lack of thrills. I simply do not see this as a record I’d be playing a great deal.

Neil Arnold

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