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Massacre (2013)
Rating: 7/10

It seems as if thrash bands are coming from all manner of countries now. The Last Warning are very much part of the metal invasion that has been on the march since the late 90s after too many years in the doldrums.

Thankfully, there aren’t many bands still left wandering in the wilderness, with thrash metal very much back in vogue after the likes of Municipal Waste reminded us how to mosh. But Austria’s The Last Warning are very much a different breed of thrash band.

Back in the 80s the genre of thrash metal was pretty much represented by two countries – the United States and Germany. These two countries didn’t necessarily compete because the music they produced was very different from one another, but I’d always had a fancy for the German sound, with bands such as Kreator, Sodom and Destruction spearheading that grey, grating style of speed metal.

The Last Warning would most certainly fit into that aggressive style of metal. These guys must’ve passed me by because this new 12-track affair, Progression, is their fourth platter (the first for Massacre Records), emerging some four years after 2009’s Elegance Of Bloodiness record, but it’s the first I’ve been able to lend an ear to.

The quintet may thrash hard, but there’s no looking back to the 80s for these guys. Their sound is very much polished, enabling the melodic segments to filter through, and all the while the vocals have a harsh approach that shift between deathly grunts and speed metal yelps.

Fans of modern day Kreator will find much to savour here, because although tracks such as opener ‘The Beast’ and ‘Devil Inside’ are very much thrash at their heart, they run on a very classic metal vein. The guitar sound is extremely clean and cutting, as are the formidable and crisp drums, and when blended together they make for an intriguing, and often hostile listen, without alienating the listener by extremity.

The Last Warning choose to not opt for the more raw, primal feel of Sodom and Destruction, although the vocal sneer of frontman Hans-Jürgen Moitzi are certainly up there with the most seething snarlers around.

A track such as ‘Pain And Hate’ pretty much sums up the band’s ability to shift styles with its melodic starting chug which soon leans towards an incisive yet malicious thrash workout. Moitzi’s vocals effortlessly bridge the gap between abrasive screeches and almost guttural death metal growls, but real metalheads will mostly be impressed by the twin guitar assault of Stefan Lanz and Roland Sattler, because the soloing on ‘Pain And Hate’ is staggering, combining that accessible melody with raging precision.

Elsewhere, we’re almost comforted by the wistful echoes of ‘Run’, which opens with a tranquil sway before transforming into an almost modern black metal-style sneer mixed with Pantera-esque urban toughness. ‘Down To The Ground’ follows suit, beginning life as a classic metal whine but building into a chugging, metallic beast that once again has echoes of Sodom and Kreator.

So, European thrash is certainly on the up and it’s good to see bands such as The Last Warning attempting to take on the baton that Kreator, Destruction, Sodom and the likes seem to have been carrying for decades. Whether The Last Warning have enough to truly inhabit the same cyber-void as those great bands we’ll have to see, but Progression is certainly a step in the right direction, although just a tad too modern sounding for me, if that makes sense?

Neil Arnold

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