Warbringer – Woe to the Vanquished
Label: Napalm Records
Release Date: March 31, 2017
Southern, California’s Warbringer revels in brutality on its latest release, Woe to the Vanquished. However, the sonic savagery conveys purpose and is not simply brutal for brutality’s sake. This is something that sets these extreme metal stalwarts apart from many of their contemporaries, who seem to ramp up the ferocity because they are checking boxes rather than serving the songs.
Warbringer’s fifth studio album, its first since 2013’s IV: Empires Collapse, marks the recording debut for bassist Jessie Sanchez and guitarist Chase Becker who join vocalist John Kevill, guitarist Adam Carroll, and drummer Carlos Cruz. Kevill and Carroll started the quintet in 2004 and have weathered line-up changes and shifting dynamics within the band over the years. Woe to the Vanquished is the next evolution for Warbringer, and it stands as a testament to their endurance and determination. This can be heard in the album’s continuity and cohesiveness.
The album begins with the throat-punch attack of “Silhouettes.” The song opens with razor riffs backstopped by a pounding snare. This quickly ascends into a maelstrom of swarming fretwork with Kevill leading the charge into battle behind a banshee wail. With tempo changes a plenty and an arsenal aggressive individual performances, this stands as a perfect opening salvo for the first of the record’s eight tracks.
The album’s title track is a perfect pit blender to open circles in front of any stage. More tempo shifts and a surprising amount of progressive nuances layered within. This is followed by the less-is-more simplicity of “Remain Violent,” with its instantly memorable riff and gang-style chorus. Kevill’s snarling growls pace this modern thrash classic. Becker and Carroll deliver a sizzling solos as well.
The sonic devastation continues with the rapid fire blitz of “Shellfire.” The song unloads on the listener in an unrelenting onslaught, with Cruz unleashing in a fury of foot and stick-work. Even here the band shifts down around the two-minute mark to set an ominous tone preceding the next wave of ballistic fire.
“Descending Blade” is one of the record’s most intriguing tracks, and manages to blend all of Warbringer’s finest elements into one raging beast. Swirling guitars from Carroll and Becker race over the unforgiving and pulverizing drumming laid down by Cruz. Kevill is at his ballistic and disturbing best. This is the album’s calling-card track.
The haunting “Spectral Asylum” shifts the dynamic of the record, delving into more complex textures, while “Divinity of Flesh” adds more progressive elements to the merciless and pummeling incursion. The solo work here is mind-numbingly spectacular.
Perhaps the biggest surprise on Woe to the Vanquished is the 11-minute epic monster that closes out the record: “When the Guns Fell Silent” is told over different movements. It is an inspired piece, but there is perhaps a bit of bloat here; some fat that might have been trimmed, but overall it works.
It is good to have Warbringer back, and Woe to the Vanquished proves that their place in modern thrash is deserved and earned. Woe to the Vanquished takes the listener through a gauntlet of thrash riffage and triturating rhythms, but manages to serve it all over a bed of thorny melodies that stick around after the album has ended. Warbringer emerge victorious in their overdue return.