Warbringer – IV: Empires Collapse
Reviewed by Kylie McInnes
“You went full wiffle. Never go full wiffle.” Warbringer has jumped the shark to wiffle thrash (oh how I wish I could claim ownership of that) after a very promising start as an excellent retro-styled Bay Area thrash band. IV: Empires Collapse bares an uncanny resemblance to the original wiffle thrash album, Exodus’s Impact Is Imminent. It’s a good, almost fun thrasher, but instead of the merciless bludgeoning of their respective debuts, both have this lightweight feel, both lyrically and musically, akin to being thwacked with a wiffle bat (ergo, “wiffle thrash”). Just listen to “One Dimension,” the new standard bearer of one of two abysses of thrash (the other abyss being “groove thrash,” though luckily none of that is present on IV). It’s catchy as hell, and definitely not bad, but it’s a limp-wristed fifth cousin-once-removed from “Total War” off their first album.
And I repeat, this isn’t a bad album at all. “Horizon”, “Hunter-Seeker”, and “Towers Of The Serpent” are phenomenally badass tunes, John Kevill’s vocals are just as visceral as ever, and John Laux still can write seriously good thrash riffs and solos. IV just lacks the “OOMPH” of their first two albums (so I skipped Worlds Turned Asunder in my collector nerd-dom, oh well), and doesn’t leave as lasting an impression. Drummer Carlos Cruz is a wonderful addition however, as their first two drummers were, for lack of a better term, mediocre.
All the elements for a great thrash album are here, but they coalesce into an all-too-lightweight affair. Exodus’s Tempo Of The Damned and Torture Squad’s Pandemonium this is not. Then again, this is also way better than Exhibit B, so I’ll stop with the Exodus comparisons. Though I admit, my first exposure to Warbringer was in 2008 opening for Exodus, and John Kevill did some guest vocals on “Bonded By Blood” so Rob Dukes could get a beer (silly New Hampshire state law about drinking alcohol on stage being verboten…live free or die…just not from getting drunk during your band’s set).
I was sorely disappointed with this album after the phenomenal month of October for thrash (because Death Angel and Skeletonwitch kicked my ass six ways to Sunday), but it’s certainly not without merit. “Leviathan” (boring and plodding a la “The Thing That Should Not Be” outside of the speedy part in the middle) and “Iron City” (lame party thrash) are the only real “skip-worthy” tracks here, but IV is certainly not the best starting point for someone trying to get into thrash. I guess it was too much to hope for Waking Into Nightmares II, but at least this isn’t Skylark featuring PelleK or something.
3.25 // 5