Album review: CULTURAL WARFARE – Warmageddon

M-Theory Audio [Release date 14.9.18]

Stop the press. There is a new player in Metal City that deserves your immediate and utmost attention. Hailing from Oakland US, this four-piece outfit takes a shot at making a Thrash Metal record and after listening to it it’s more than obvious to me that they’ve hit the target bull’s eye.

Now, the type of Thrash Metal that these guys go for is the one that features substantial melodies interfused with precise aggressive elements, all well balanced in order to have songs that stick and not just end up becoming momentarily thrills, soon to be forgotten. In other words, they are aiming high.

For this endeavor to come into fruition successfully you need two things: inspiration and the necessary musical skills to compose and deliver. Well, “Warmaggedon” is, without any exaggeration, a grade A, top quality American Thrash metal album.

From the moment you hit the ‘play’ button and the war winds of the self-titled opener “Warmaggedon” are unleashed, the band’s aim is to impress the hell out of you and all members are all out on doing exactly that.

But first things first. The man behind the mic, Jacques Serrano grabs your attention with his performance, ideas and overall abilities. His passionate voice is one that commands power, undeniably versatile and strong, switching from being rough, vicious and aggressive to high pitched and melodic, at times bringing in mind a few fan favorites which I’ll let you discover on your own. His vocal patterns are exactly the opposite of being limited, as he seems to have suitable vocal lines up his sleeve to match each song specifically. Impressive.

The guitars are another piece of work here. The vast majority of the riffs are coming straight out of the golden years of the US Bay Area scene, bar very few exceptions. Every good song starts with a good riff and in the case of this genre riffs are what set things in motion.

You need riffs that when they enter your system you wouldn’t want to stand around still but instead make you want to destroy something. That’s easily accomplished since there is a tornado of ferocious riffs generated here. These are seasoned and talented musicians who have obviously grown up with all the right influences for this job.

If one needs to translate those influences to band references then Testament and Exodus are front and center mixed with Metal Churchian tricks and Heathenisms while there are traces of Sanctuary, Forbidden, Laaz Rockit and Judas Priest to be found as well.

Getting back to the all-important six string factor, the rhythm guitars and lead guitars march together in excellent synch with at times astonishing effects. A lot of effort has been put in the arrangements of the songs even to the little details (even the gang vocals are placed just right) and they have that sweet old school vibe that makes you grin with all the unexpected twists, hooks and tempo changes but they also manage to keep things fresh and relevant today.

There are guitar fills coming out of nowhere, guitar solos to either make your head spin or leave you bewitched with their emotional feeling, haunting dual harmony guitar lines that give way to frantic solos and so forth, the guitar work here is quite simply outstanding.

This is some potent stuff that has even some surprises lurking in there in the form of “Two Spirits”, with an overall enough long-lasting appeal to keep you coming back to it again and again to discover and enjoy all the cool stuff that are happening in there.

Surely, there are a lot of (good) bands out there that try to emulate the old school feeling but Cultural Warfare somehow manage to come off as an authentic group, putting out effortlessly quality US thrash metal. Most impressive.

All this is nicely produced with the help of well-established names; with Juan Ortega handling production and Jens Borgen the mastering. Notice the vibrant and clear sound of the guitars, the presence of the vocals in the mix and how the drums are nicely set up in the overall sound.

All instruments are in the front yet they don’t overshadow one another. If I wanted to nitpick , the overall sound production wise could have been a little thicker and warmer but it gets the job done.

I strongly feel that, on the strength of the material on offer, Cultural Warfare are a band that’s criminally overlooked. This is indeed one hell of a debut album (they’ve got one EP prior to this one here) full of really good ideas that are beautifully executed.

You may want to make a note of these guys because if what you seek out is US Thrash Metal with significant songwriting skills then “Warmaggedon” marks the spot.

The band name, although meaningful, is not attractive and sexy and the cover artwork could have been much better indeed, but a slightly paraphrased quote from the most famous smuggler of a faraway galaxy couldn’t have nailed it more accurately: “they may not look like much but they’ve got it where it counts kid”. Highly recommended!

Kiriakos Lightbringer

Rating: ****1/2 (4.5/5.0)


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