Album Review: Power Trip – Nightmare Logic

At first listen, Power Trip’s Nightmare Logic sounds for all the world like your typical thrash throwback — a pandering, nostalgia-laden love-letter to a decades-saturated genre. So why the fuck am I enjoying it so much?

It proudly wears common thrash trappings like whammy bar-wankery, retro reverb, time-twisting tempo changes, and syncopated percussive punching ripped right from Ride the Lightning and other damned-obvious source material. And after multiple listens, I still can’t pinpoint any effort Power Trip has made to modernize what they’re doing on Nightmare Logic. Therefore, I have to conclude that this Texas quintet has written an honest-to-God goddamned good thrash album.

Album art for Power Trip's Nightmare Logic.

“Soul Sacrifice” riffs with Exodus-esque enthusiasm before breaking into a Slayer-like sprint. “Executioner’s Tax” rolls like thunder toward a passage of Ulrich-ian tom pounding, building up tension to return to a lightning-crack chorus. “Waiting Around to Die” — with its palm-muted to open-note picking pattern and hazy production — could fit right at home on So Far, So Good… So What! (and even fits better, if you remember that “502” exists). It’s all stuff we’ve heard before, but even Power Trip’s previous effort, 2013’s Manifest Decimation, didn’t get it this right.

What Nightmare Logic does so well is harness the infectious energy — the no-nonsense, fluff-free, often-imitated intensity — of the primordial Big Four and Co. and injects it full to bursting into nine solid songs.

Aside from a few lo-fi, analog-sounding synth intros and outros, there’s barely a wasted second on the entire thing. Each song flows seamlessly between vicious verses, killer choruses, headbanging bridges, and dynamic breaks. Certain riffs occasionally get milked (the outro of “If Not Us Then Who” comes to mind), but it never takes too much of our time before we’re tearing into another track. Even the tacked-on second-verse solos — their inclusion more a regretful courtesy to the genre than anything truly noteworthy — serve the higher purpose of stoking the reignited flames and keeping the old-school metal momentum going. Strange, then, that for all their efforts in recreating the past, Power Trip’s tunes are so good at moving us relentlessly forward.

Above all, the thing that would sell any Bay Area ‘banger on Nightmare Logic (and Power Trip as a whole) is the vocalist. We’ve endured thrash singers for years, we know what to expect: sharp, rapid barks, accenting the attack of the guitars. And although lyrically it’s nothing special, Riley Gale’s vocal delivery would have stood out even in ‘85. His brazen hardcore howls, occasionally dragging deliciously behind the beat, are pulled off with charisma and confidence. He’s not carrying the band by any means, but he’s a hurricane force to be sure.

Power Trip does seem to favor their 75-85 BPM backbeat-banger riffs, but given the nostalgic context these sections never feel out of place — they’re practically made to be played live and get the circle pit brewin’. I can perfectly picture the bridge from “Firing Squad” eliciting the kind of impromptu mosh pit camaraderie that makes you sling an arm around the slippery, sweaty shoulder of the hesher next to you — and him to you — and headbang in unison until both your goddamn heads rattle off.

Nightmare Logic doesn’t surge with unrestrained electricity, or seek to impress us with phenomenal fret- or feet-work (the drummer doesn’t have a double bass pedal). Power Trip wears their influences on their sleeves, and they don’t spend a second trying to convince us they’re anything more than what they are. Instead, Nightmare Logic hits hard and plunges deep, an IV needle pumping us full of magical, time-traveling fluid, miraculously bringing what was once thought dead back to life. This concise, carefully executed package is the real deal.

If you’ve ever argued over whether Metallica or Megadeth was the better band, I can’t imagine you not liking Nightmare Logic.

Support Power Trip and buy Nightmare Logic in the link located above.

Album Review: The Drip – The Haunting Fear of Inevitability

At the risk of sounding like a complete ignoramus, I’d like to go on record as saying I know next to nothing about grind. Its permutations, its lyrical themes, its musical tropes — even the other genres it tends to play nice with — so let’s put all that aside, shall we?

Now let’s also put aside whether or not Washington’s The Drip even classifies as grind, or deathgrind, or d-beat, or whatever the fuck else I see people calling them. Because none of that matters when you hear what’s on offer with The Haunting Fear of Inevitability.

The whole album, front to back, is a whirlwind whiplash of energy and aggression, and it takes whatever form will accomplish that the quickest. Passages with hauling blast beats shift gears into herky-jerk d-beats. Phlegmy hardcore shouts deftly morph into brazen death metal barks. A melting pot of influences is cooking on full blast here, with no time for solos, or even choruses for that matter.

This is metal, and it’s the ass-kicking kind.

Album art for The Drip's The Haunting Fear of Inevitability, featuring a hooded decaying skull.
(Image source: Toiletovhell)

But why stop there? The Haunting Fear of Inevitability easily bludgeons every other part of the body too, from face to fanny. You’ve got balls-out bangers like “Terror War Industry” that clock in at under a minute and a half, while longer jams like “Anathema” slow down for groovin’ (okay, you could hardly call 2:45 “long,” but I’m trying to be respectful of these boys’ time). A good number of tracks fall into the latter category, which makes for a more dynamic listening experience.

Some music just makes you want to go nuts, and Haunting will let you do that. The album lacks the elitist sophistication I usually look for in metal these days, but I can’t deny the unbridled electricity charging every song. This isn’t thinking man’s metal, no sir — you’ve got five dudes terrorizing their instruments, delivering a slammin’ set of tunes. But that’s not to say the songs themselves aren’t thoughtful.

Thankfully, The Drip doesn’t sacrifice smart songwriting for pure auditory manhandling. Want neat and tidy song structures? The end of “Blackest Evocation” revisits the machine gun percussion from the song’s intro, which ties a neat little bow onto an explosive package. If you want something more organic, look no further than “Dead Inside.” A breakneck beginning slows to a shambling gait a mere minute in, a pace that continues for the remainder of the song and makes for one of the album’s more memorable tracks.

Ultimately, your being a fan of grind matters less than you being a fan of metal in general. There’s plenty of grinding (??) going on during the punishing half hour that is The Haunting Fear of Inevitability, but they’re pulling from genres in a way that makes sense. It all makes an intimidating/unfamiliar genre a bit more digestible. And you don’t have to subscribe to any of these things! If you even remotely like your metal bearing down on you like a chrome-plated rabid warthog, you’ll find something to like here. Then again, if you’re turned off by one track, the other twelve aren’t likely to convince you. But if you, me, and everybody else ends up getting into grind this year, I reckon we’ll have The Drip to thank for it.

Album Review: Metallica – Hardwired… to Self-Destruct

I’m going to start by talking about Star Wars. Please bear with me.

When The Phantom Menace released in ‘99, it kicked off nearly two decades of disappointment. But the prequel films were honest, if mostly underwhelming; they were original and underivative, made with (probably) good intentions, even if they weren’t what longtime fans wanted.

When The Force Awakens came out last year, fans got a film much like the ones they fell in love with. To that point, some have said it was too similar, that Force Awakens followed too many of the same story beats as its predecessors, and depending how you looked at it, that point of view could be bad or perfectly acceptable.

Album art for Metallica's Hardwired... to Self-Destruct.

Hardwired… To Self-Destruct is very much Metallica’s Force Awakens — a return to a familiar form that should satisfy the yearnings for that old-school vibe but ends up treading a lot of previously covered ground. But what makes Hardwired different from my obnoxious analogy about space opera is the ground it covers is from the period Metallica fans have, historically anyway, liked the least — Load and Reload. Oh, there are a handful of good — I’d venture to say even great — songs, but the majority of the album is like if J.J. Abrams plopped Jar-Jar Binks in Force without any of us realizing it and gave him a significantly large (and appropriately tragic) amount of screentime. The plodding, unwanted Load-iness of tracks like “Dream No More” and “Now That We’re Dead” is baffling when other cuts like “Moth Into Flame” are kicking such ass.

To its credit, there’s no prequel-esque visionary departure on Hardwired; it sounds distinctly Metallica, the feel-good, Mom’s apple pie Metallica. No trash cans and cracking voice here, no’m — Lars is still holding things down behind the kit (despite every internet comments section wanting his head on a platter), and Kirk is still wanking away on his whammy. And of all the ‘Mets, James is sounding better than ever.

Metallica shouldn’t be above a little criticism, and neither should Star Wars; neither Hardwired or Force Awakens are perfect, and I don’t need them nor expect them to be. I gladly take the good (the Reys and Finns to the “Spit Out the Bone”s and “Atlus, Rise”s) along with, well… everything else. There’s nothing so offensive as a Jar-Jar here in Hardwired, so at least we can thank Hetfield, Ulrich, Hammett, and Trujillo for that.

I like that this isn’t a throwback album; the different styles of songs on display here show their willingness to accept the flaws in their DNA. After all, you can’t take the Load or St. Anger out of Metallica anymore than you can take the Hero’s Journey out of Star Wars. Those are fundamental building blocks to the final product we still get to enjoy to this day.

Buy Hardwired…to Self-Destruct here.