Album of the Week 32-2015: Volcano – Melt

Over two decades have passed since Sheja left Japanese Thrash legends Gargoyle, but the basic elements of his compositions are still the same in Volcano. There’s his lethal guitar tone, perfectly suited to both his vicious riffs and highly melodic leads, raw vocals – though “gruff” would be a more fitting word for Gargoyle’s Kiba – and rhythms that support groove as well as aggression. And if the break of “only” four years after its predecessor ‘Mythology’ wasn’t good enough news – there was a decade between their masterpiece ‘Davi’ and ‘Mythology’ – the quality of ‘Melt’ is. It’s one fine record on the tri-state area of Thrash, Melodeath and traditional Heavy Metal.

‘Mythology’ showed the band trying out a more contemporary approach which I considered only partially successful. Some of the Death Metal influences are heard throughout ‘Melt’, though mostly in one track (‘Tokyo Panic’), but due to the more melodic songwriting, the album has a distinctly more traditional vibe than any of their previous releases. The violent Thrash riffs are definitely still there, but most of the intros and choruses are built upon melodic (twin) guitar parts and the latter are generally only pushed into Thrash territories by Nov’s raspy vocals.

Yet, there’s something deliciously irresistible about the melodicism of ‘Melt’. While ‘The Mother Earth’, for instance, has the uptempo palm-mute riffing of a Thrash Metal song, it is essentially classic Heavy Metal with a strong build up, wailing leads and a soaring chorus. Even the most Thrash-oriented moments, such as opening track ‘Super Whole Stone’, ‘Perish’ and the Slayeriffic ‘Die Number Nine’ (don’t ask about the titles…) have twin solos and dramatic passages to make them more interesting than the average contemporary Thrash Metal record. The intensity of a song like ‘History Cries’ or ‘Progress’ is never reached, but somehow, that wouldn’t really fit the album anyway.

Another classic Heavy Metal song is the amazing ‘Fire Sky ~Hero Of This Story~’, that has a couple of blazing twin riffs and one of Nov’s best vocal performances on the record. Drummer Shun is absolutely on fire as well and proves that Katsuji Kirita can absolutely be replaced, something I had slight doubts about. Another one of Shun’s highlights is ‘Tokyo Panic’, where he alternates between the blastbeats of the verses and the powerful Thrash grooves beneath the rest of the riffs. And that chorus (“Panic! Tokyo Panic!”) begs to be shouted along. And when the band does slow down, as they do in the crushing ‘Aim, Shoot, No, Kill’, they impress just as much.

With the Metal scene being as conservative and stubborn as it is, there’s a chance many people will find it too little of either to be interesting, but the simple fact is that ‘Melt’ is the perfect melting pot (incredibly lame pun totally intended!) of Thrash Metal and Heavy Metal. Sheja obviously knows how to write a good song and that is a feat not given to many Thrash composers. With the band being Japanese, it’s kind of hard to track down the album, but it’s worth every bit of money and effort you put into it. I wish they still had a European deal like they had with their debut…

Recommended tracks: ‘The Mother Earth’, ‘Fire Sky ~Hero Of This Story’, ‘Tokyo Panic’

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