It is interesting to hear the kind of old school thrash that was a staple of the '80s Metal Blade catalogue coming back around and being released on albums in 2008. As we're in the midst of a major thrash resurgence, it comes as no surprise to hear bands like FUELED BY FIRE and, in the case of this review, the Bay Area's HATCHET finding their way onto the label roster. These days virtually every major metal label has been snapping up bullet-belted, leather clad acts like it's going out of style (again). The up side is that many of these groups deliver the goods in a big way, eschewing any 'core influences and updated sounds in favor of chainsaw riffs, evil attitude, and larger than life artwork. The problem is that it appears the talent pool is getting increasingly shallow. HATCHET's "Awaiting Evil" is certainly not a bottom of the barrel release by any stretch of the imagination, but one can hear a bit of the mundane creeping in.
Fortunately, there is a fair amount of thrashing fire to be found on "Awaiting Evil" and the boys has tapped into that all-important, but often botched, feeling of the glory days and bring with it some impressive chops. The songwriting leaves something to be desired though, as there are very few songs that really reach up and grab the listener. In fact, the formula becomes a little too repetitive as one makes his through the album. Aside from instrumental opener "Darkening Skies", what you get are fast gallops, '80s guitar crunch, backing shouts, and vocal patterns from Marcus Kirchen that don't vary a whole hell of a lot. However, where the album really shines is when the guitar solos rip through the air; there are some seriously shredding leads from Julian Ramos going on here, played with passion and skill, even through a rather compressed sounding mix.
Most of "Awaiting Evil" stays clear of the mediocre, but one is left wondering whether HATCHET's (early) SLAYER-derived thrash, crossed with a dash NWOBHM guitar work, would sound considerably better if released a couple of years go. As the market floods, it becomes increasingly difficult to make a mark. My qualifications notwithstanding, "Awaiting Evil" still shows that there is life left in the movement, even though several of the band's contemporaries are pulling it off in more convincing fashion.