Tanks rumble over decaying bodies, gasmasks are donned as soldiers carry their wounded in one arm and M-16 in the other, marching through plumes of smoke on a battlefield halfway around the world. Following closely behind is an armored personnel carrier that pulls a flatbed on which the members of Michigan's NOCTURNAL FEAR play filthy, death-tinged thrash metal like its 1986 with no regard for the fact that they make great targets for snipers concealed in the few trees that haven't been incinerated. Yep, they're back in uncompromising underground fashion with a most aptly titled fourth album called "Metal of Honor".What remains is an album that continues to borrow heavily from the likes of SODOM, DESTRUCTION, early KREATOR, and pre-"Reign in Blood" SLAYER, but this time the songs are longer and moderately more dynamic. Session vocalist Doomy G. Blackthrash (certainly his birth name) spews war-fed tales of Hell soldiers, nuclear death strikes, and heavy metal artillery with a throaty rasp as guitarist/bassist Reverend Chris Slavehunter fires repeating rounds of razor wire riffing and dive-bombing solos, while Aggressor keeps the beat with an unrelenting, natural style. All of it is hell-bent for leather and ugly as sin. The difference is that songs like the seven-minute "Death Before Dishonor" offer an array of riffs and compositional shifts to make things more interesting, kind of like what SLAYER did with "Hell Awaits". Dropping "Reign of Terror (Instrumental Trilogy)" — complete with acoustic intro and narration — around the mid-point serves to smartly divide the album. I might add that the John Rambo samples from "Cast from Heaven" make for a splendid opening. The live feel and nostalgic tribute to classic German and U.S. thrash metal join with the band's now relatively identifiable style to make "Metal of Honor" a worthy follow up to "Code of Violence". Album number four is a more ambitious endeavor, though not necessarily a more memorable one, meaning only that NOCTURNAL FEAR has maintained consistency without merely cloning the previous effort.
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