Man oh man, is it ever tough to distinguish one's retro thrash metal band from the army of retro thrash metal bands currently waging guerilla warfare in various continental hot spots. Outside of forays into the progressive reaches of the genre there just aren't many places to go that haven't already been occupied by the German and American thrash legends and associated offshoots. As such, a retro thrash album in 2011 better be one that is — at a minimum — convincing in its delivery and memorable in its songwriting. Canadian outfit UNTIMELY DEMISE does a fair job on both ends, though probably not enough to make "City of Steel" a serious competitor for your hard earned dollars. The super-cool Ed Repka artwork does help.
"City of Steel" is for all intents and purposes seven tracks of decently written and decently played old school thrash metal that reminds most of KREATOR and DESTRUCTION. The Glen Drover (ex-KING DIAMOND, ex-MEGADETH) production is sturdy and suitably raw, the man also credited with sharing guitar solos with what would appear to be a band leader in Matt Cuthbertson who is credited as vocalist, lead guitarist, acoustic guitarist, and rhythm guitarist. Cutherberton's vocal style is of the raspy type, somewhere between the CARCASS highs and KREATOR's Mille Petrozza. Many of the tunes rely on classic buzz sawing rhythms — several of which move into righteous aggression territory — to go with very competent, if not flashy, guitar solos. An occasional gallop in the step and some noteworthy melodic moments (e.g. "Bloodsoaked Mission"), including flashes of melodic death metal during "Streets of Vice", work to keep things a tad more interesting than usual. One noticeably awkward changeup in the middle of "Unmaker" that sounds more metalcore thrash than retro thrash can be forgiven in the otherwise KREATOR-ish patterned tune.
In the final analysis, "City of Steel" should do more to please fans of the diehard thrash contingent than those with more varied tastes. Even then, it's a pretty good effort even if it struggles to stand out from the crowd.