Angry times should demand lots of angry music, but it's extraordinary how few young metal bands seem to have anything pertinent to say about the state of the world. As a result, CLIMATE OF FEAR's debut album immediately stands out as a venomous and jolting shot in the arm for the UK's ever-fertile underground and, with any luck, the wider metal world. With their anti-capitalist, anti-exploitation and anti-religion stance made perfectly plain in song titles like "Slaves Of Capital" and "Centuries Of Torment" and a sound that embraces feral thrash, jaw-shattering melo-death and the most brutish of metallic hardcore, this British quintet may just be the perfect antidote to the broader scene's lyrical malaise.
It certainly helps that "The Onset Of Eternal Darkness" is unapologetic about its debt to SLAYER. With welcome echoes of UK forebearers STAMPIN' GROUND, opening song "Rapture" is a riot of refined Hannemania, from its keening, devilish intro lick to the multi-speed thuggery of its many scything riffs. Meanwhile, "The Cult Of Retribution" begins with an archetypal acoustic intro before morphing into a fractious whirlwind of tempo shifts and anti-gravity blasting, lashings of Devil's tritone menace spotlighting the looming specter of thrash metal's evil kings. But where SLAYER clones are often a defiantly one-dimensional lot, CLIMATE OF FEAR are as comfortable misusing a SABBATH riff or throwing in some CANNIBAL CORPSE-style discord as they are with the rudiments of thrash.
As the album evolves, it soon becomes apparent that death metal provides this band with their real starting point: "Shadow & Flame" boasts an enormous, cudgeling beatdown that could indicate an underlying influence from hardcore, but that really sounds like an anxious DYING FETUS. Similarly, "From Enslavement To Extinction" is armed with multiple tempo twists and acres of lumbering chug, but an air of blackened iciness leaks through the cracks, transforming the seemingly straightforward into something far more distinctive. Even at their most succinct, on two-minute ragers "Centuries Of Torment" and "Storming The Heavens", seemingly incompatible elements like mad-eyed hyper-grind and HIMSA-esque metalcore are thrown violently together with stunning results. Meanwhile, the instrumental "De Conflictu Noctis Aeternae Obruat" provides the album with an unexpected, baroque post-rock interlude that, oddly, really works.
Most importantly, CLIMATE OF FEAR really do sound pissed. The Brits will by no means be the first band to exhort their audience to "Wake the fuck up!", as vocalist Paul does at the start of "Slaves Of Capital", but here the command is clearly delivered out of desperation, not because the man with the microphone wants you all to go apeshit and throw your drinks at each other. In an era where people routinely confuse compassion with oversensitivity, extreme metal powered by righteousness is more valuable than ever, particularly when it is as convincing and exciting as this. Relentlessly bleak but full of life-affirming savagery, "The Onset Of Eternal Darkness" doesn't exactly offer much hope for humanity's future, but it does absolutely fucking insist that we rage against the dying of the light.