Four long years after I was accused of Chile-ophobia for not loving their "Sicario" album, CRIMINAL has emerged with a much stronger slab of thrash. "White Hell" doesn't mess around — right from the opening salvo, the parched and vicious "21st Century Paranoia", we're hit with a sound akin to prime AT THE GATES as channeled through a desperate Third World frenzy. This is archetypal death/thrash, blasting through some killer polka-beat moments and unleashing an impressive cascade of drums in the chorus.CRIMINAL don't let up, either — the churning "Crime and Punishment" alternates a midtempo verse with a manic riff that fairly flies off the rails. It's little things, like the steadily increasing chant of "punishment! punishment!" that builds up over the steamrolling chug of the bridge, that makes these songs more memorable and "White Hell" a more bare-knuckle thrash brawl. Even when a song lacks originality and comes off as a rote exercise, as on "Black Light", there are several cool parts that press all the right air-guitar buttons in the brain, providing enough hooks and brimstone delivery to keep the listener's attention. There are still a few places on "White Hell" where CRIMINAL drift into a directionless morass, particularly in the middle of the disc. At no point is the record bad or anything, and even when things get a little generic, a song like "The Infidel" will contain one spine-cracking good riff to hang your interest on. If the band could maintain the intensity of the first two songs for forty minutes, they'd be creating the next "Reign in Blood" here — as it is, CRIMINAL aren't a perfect band, but their tenacious modern thrash is only getting better with time, and "White Hell" is a solid, satisfying listen.
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