For one reason or another California's WARBRINGER gets mentioned in virtually every discussion of thrash metal's resurgence these last few years. In this case, the hoopla is warranted, as the youngsters play it like they mean it and bring genuineness to the proceedings, a trait that is frequently lacking with the bandwagon jumpers. The quintet scored big with Century Media debut "War without End" and throws another knockout punch with "Waking into Nightmares". It ain't nothin' fancy; just well written pit thrash with an attitude.
Generally more in league with the style of thrash heard on "The Onslaught" by Wisconsin's LAZARUS A.D. — old-school-inspired, yet infused with a modern and muscular element (ala recent releases from EXODUS) — "Waking into Nightmares" is all mean streaks and nasty dispositions. Perhaps that beefy modern EXODUS sound has at least a little something to do with producer/guitarist/thrash-godfather Gary Holt's involvement in the process (Adam Myatt is the engineer). It couldn't have hurt. There is something about the tautness and toughness of "Waking into Nightmares", its ironclad riffing, and completely in-your-face approach that leaves one unsurprised when reading Holt's name listed in the credits.
When it comes to the music of EXODUS, as well as KREATOR, hatefulness and violence are the central tenets. In that regard, WARBRINGER is in league with both bands. Every note played, drumhead cracked, and lyric spat is 100 percent antisocial. That's what the best thrash offers, as far as I'm concerned.
Bellicosity alone wouldn't make "Waking into Nightmares" a memorable album. Fortunately, the songwriting is pretty darn good, if not exactly original. Mostly the band sticks to the basics of rhythmic punishment, muscular riffing, screaming solos, and an immediately memorable verse-chorus-verse approach. Not being one that finds anything inherently wrong with traditional song format, provided the tunes stick to the ribs and the arrangements offer at least a little variety, I find nothing but face lacerating riffs and clenched-teeth choruses on most of these tracks, the possible exception being instrumental "Nightmare Anatomy", though it impresses for different reasons — its dark tones and METALLICA-esque arrangement (remember when instrumentals were nearly as memorable as the proper songs?). Many of the tunes are structured in a manner closer to KREATOR's no-nonsense approach, such as "Senseless Life", and benefit because of it. A couple of tunes do depart from the predictably patterned approach; especially highlight "Shadow from the Tomb", which features a little SLAYER and a lot of John Tardy (OBITUARY) during the vocal changeups.
No matter the song, you're getting a quality product in "Waking into Nightmares". It is not as though most folks are unaware of what they're getting from this type of album; it is heavy ass thrash, nothing more, and WARBRINGER does it very well. That still works for most of us here in 2009.