Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Thrash grooves and breakdowns

Yes, I like groove in my thrash metal. No, not all the time, but for me, the groove element has its place.

When you mention "groove" to many thrash fans, they will sometimes recoil in fear and disgust, concerned that they are speaking with a slobbering groove metal fanboy, or worse - a nu metal fan.

Well, although I am a fan of groove metal with limited tastes in nu metal, that's not really what I am talking about.

I'm talking about the occasional half-time breakdown in a traditional thrash or death metal record. Let's start with Slayer. Slayer have added dashes of groove throughout their discography, successfully kicking the asses of metalheads for nearly three decades.

Go all the way back to Slayer's Reign in Blood. The song Raining Blood has one of the most famous killer pit-inducing breakdowns, and I am convinced that many hardcore/metal hybrid bands from the 90s had a life-altering experience with this song.

Moving up to a more modern era for Slayer, the notorious Diabolus in Musica has a clear shot of heavy groove added, causing many fans to cry foul. "Nu meta! They went nu metal!" HA!

I laugh at this idea that Slayer went nu metal. Sure, groove and nu metal were a big deal in the 90s when DiM was released, but I have heard bands such as Coal Chamber and Static X, and let me tell ya...Slayer on their most NU-infected days sound absolutely nothing like them.

Sepultura is band that infused Slayeresque breakdowns and tons of groove, even before the release of Roots.

When I saw SEP during the Chaos AD tour, the breakdown in Desperate Cry caused one of the biggest circle pits I've ever slammed into. The Chaos AD record is laden with groove, even to the point where some purists decree that it is not even a thrash record. Whatever. To me, it is a strong album that helped keep the flag flying right before the grunge and nu metal siege.

Now, onto a sore spot with me - the band Testament. Why? Because I catch so much crap for mentioning my love for Demonic that I get tired of defending why I believe this record destroys.

First of all, when this record was released, so many bands went soft or changed their sound to be more rock or alternative. So at a time when metal was a dirty word, Testament put out one of the heaviest slabs of metal, riding the fence of thrash and groove-infused death. It was as if Testament had a baby with Jungle Rot, and it was (and still is) a vicious record. Purists hated the death metal influence, but I felt it only made the record heavier.

And the GROOVE on such a heavy freaking record. Both Demonic and The Gathering are teaming with groove riffs, which add to the dynamics when mixed with a heavy does of thrash. I love it.

A lot of the NWOTM bands are keeping it old-school (yet still attracting the ironic disdain from the thrash purists), but there are still plenty of thrash bands who fill their tunes with killer mid-song breakdowns and groovy riffs without falling into either the Pantera or Hatebreed side of the metal fence.

Bands such as Sworn Amongst and Toxic Holocaust, although wildly different from one another, can write some crushing grooves and breakdowns.

Another band, of which I have heard only one song, is the Johnson City, TN band Paralyzer.

Admitedly, I thought up this post about grooves and breakdowns in thrash metal when I heard their song Legion of Hate. The song itself is not an all-out groove-fest by any means. In fact, they use it sparingly, to the point that the listener takes notice and will move his or her head in aggressive satisfaction. I can't wait to hear more from these guys.

So, yes, I love the speed and controlled chaos of thrash. I love the onslaught of fast and catchy riffs layered with blistering solos. However, when the occasion calls for it, a meaty breakdown as a contrasting dynamic can turn a good thrash tune into a circle pit classic.

"Awaiting the hour of reprisal
Your time slips away"

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