Album of the Week 05-2015: Angelus Apatrida – Hidden Evolution

The state of Thrash Metal these days worries me. The old guard generally struggles to maintain momentum, while the younger bands can’t write a tune like their influences did and – even worse – their lyrics are disturbingly marred by toilet humor and beer tributes. Enter Angelus Apatrida. The Spanish quartet lends a fresh contemporary edge to their sound by writing riffs that are slightly more technical than traditional Thrash Metal riffs and melody plays an equally important part to their music as the intense full-speed aggression the genre is known for. Even moreso on their fifth full-length ‘Hidden Evolution’, the band’s third amazing record in a row.

‘Hidden Evolution’ does, in a way, feel like a reaction to its faster, more aggressive predecessor ‘The Call’. It may not immediately hit the listener, because opening track ‘Immortal’ is another all-out Thrash assault with delightfully technical riff work, but the album has more urgent choruses and a greater dose of variation in the tempo department than ever before. No intensity was sacrificed to do so though; ‘Hidden Evolution’ is still instantly recognizable as an Angelus Apatrida album and fans of their earlier work should have no reservations about buying this one. It just sees the band stretching out a bit.

Ironically, my favorite track of the bunch is the blood boiling speed monster that is ‘Serpents On Parade’. That riff is just awesome and Víctor Valera’s drum work is nothing less than punishing. The rest isn’t any less intense though. ‘Tug Of War’, for instance, has a very distinct chorus due to its lower tempo and harmonic vocals, but also has some of the album’s most technical riffing and some killer dual guitar harmonies. The title track brings to mind Testament due to Guillermo Izquierdo’s very Chuck Billy-like deliverance in the chorus and Annihilator because of its beautiful clean guitar parts. ‘First World Of Terror’ and ‘Wanderers Forever’ are fantastic Thrashers as well.

Another thing that makes Angelus Apatrida so much better than their contemporaries is the guitar work. As stated before, the riffs are relatively intricate, but Guillermo Izquierdo and David G. Álvarez pull them off with admirable ease. And those solos! Both guitarists are able to deliver some melodically strong and technically impressive lead work without losing sight of the necessary intensity. Former Arch Enemy axeman Chris Amott lends a hand in ‘Speed Of Light’, but that’s hardly necessary; Álvarez and Izquierdo can carry the weight by themselves.

Maybe Angelus Apatrida won’t be able to save the future of Thrash Metal all by themselves, but the fact of the matter is that they are currently the only Thrash band that has both the artistic gravitas and the – overvalued – credibility and intensity to lead the crusade on increasingly disturbing trends in the Metal scene. But even when you let that go, Angelus Apatrida is simply a delight to listen to. Technically challenging, musically interesting and undeniably headbangable to the point of a sore neck. Obligated for anyone who loves Thrash.

Recommended tracks: ‘Serpents On Parade’, ‘Immortal’, ‘First World Of Terror’

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