Album Review: POWER TRIP Manifest Decimation
The nouveau thrash movement may or may not be dead, but, regardless of how you feel about the genre's well being, Texas' Power Trip are coming to trash your apartment and mosh you into a bloody pulp.
Manifest Decimation, out June 11th on Southern Lord, is a caustic mixture of crossover thrash, hardcore, and just a smidgen of death metal. The album sounds like Cro-Mags, Slayer, and Possessed got snatched up in a tornado and the whole thing went on a cross country rampage. Maybe that's a tad hyperbolic, but only just a tad. With Manifest Destination, Power Trip have successfully delivered a fresh take on crossover thrash. That's no small feat considering the genre has been stagnating for years.
The album opener and title track, "Manifest Decimation" starts slowly with a creepy oscillating keyboard note layered over guitars that buzz like a plague of cicadas. The whole intro feels filthy; like a sleazy horror movie from the 70's. But that's the appropriate imagery for this music. It's not long before the intro gives way (or is roughly shoved down and trampled) to the actual song, and Power Trip waste no time with pleasantries here. As soon as the tempo picks up, vocalist Riley Gale unleashes a throat shredding howl and the band launches into a reverb drenched rampage that lasts the LP's entire 35 minute run time.
Drenched is an appropriate verb, by the way. Reverb is all over everything on this record. It works though. Although much of this material is steeped in party thrash and hardcore conventions, the reverb adds some distance between the listener and the music, and the muddy production gives each song an evil vibe. The end result is a cavernous, menacing sound that's heavy on atmosphere but still aggressive. Before hearing Manifest Decimation, I never would have thought reverbed gang vocals and those horse whinny sounding guitar solos present in primitive death metal could coexist in the same song; the one-two punch of "Heretic's Fork" and "Conditioned To Death" have made a believer out of me, though.
The next three songs, "Murderer's Row", "Crossbreaker", and "Drown" are more heavily influenced by hardcore than the initial three songs. The gang vocals become more prominent and the tempos are slowed somewhat to accommodate the chugging riffs that signal when it's appropriate to start a circle pit. "Crossbreaker", especially, is much more hardcore than thrash.
The final two tracks, "Power Trip" and "The Hammer of Doubt" slide back toward crossover thrash territory and close Manifest Decimation out on a high note. Although the entire album is really one long high note. Seriously, this is one solid album. Any metal head is going to find something to like here.
Much of Manifest Decimation's strength lies in Power Trip's ability to meld the best aspects of various subgenres while abandoning the aspects that drag the respective subgenres down. For example, the band appropriate youth crew hardcore style gang shouts and primitive breakdowns but wisely avoid the corny hyper-macho posturing that contemporary hardcore bands like Hatebreed adopted. The breakdowns, when they make an appearance, are mercifully short and only amount to some light chugging guitar riffs. There's nothing wrong with "mosh parts", but the breakdown-as-song structure popularized by modern core bands is lazy and boring.
The band handles the thrash elements in their songs equally well. They eschew modern genre hallmarks like cartoony lyrical imagery and slick production and instead focus on speed, brutality, and nihilistic bleakness. Think Reign In Blood era Slayer. While their contemporaries in the thrash scene are hung up on technicality and songs about zombie beer parties, Power Trip are screaming at you about real world horrors. Lyrically, Manifest Decimation has much more in common with Orwell than Fulci or Animal House.
Crossover thrash and hardcore aren't that far apart stylistically, so it's not surprising a band would fuse the two. But the old school death metal flourishes are really what makes this album memorable. The heavy reverb on everything, shrieking guitar solos, and sludgy production quality bring to mind The Possesed's Seven Churches. The death metal influence extends to the album art as well. Where most contemporary thrash bands favor album covers with bright colors and distinct lines, Power Trip elected to go with a miasmic collage painting composed of muddy earth tones that appears to have been dipped in dirty water after it was completed. The art matches the griminess of the music perfectly; it conveys exactly what the listener should expect before the first track has started.
Much like how John Carpenter's excellent remake of The Thing was overshadowed by E.T., there's a good chance Manifest Decimation will come and go without much fanfare when it's released next month. It's hitting stores amid the massive (and deserved) hype of the upcoming Deafheaven album after all. But there's plenty of room in your collection for both of these albums, and they both deserve your attention equally. Just as with E.T. and The Thing, it's possible to appreciate the transcendental beauty of Deafheaven while giving equal respect to the filthy, menacing socio-political rage of Power Trip.