This has already been a superb year for thrash. New albums from heavyweights like TESTAMENT, SEPULTURA and ANNIHILATOR and furious new wavers like HAVOK, SHRAPNEL, HOLYCIDE and SCHIZOPHRENIA have all confirmed that this peculiarly resilient subgenre is as vital and vibrant as it has ever been. What self-consciously cool folk fail to understand is that diehard metalheads aren't impervious to progress: they just don't necessarily need it. And if bands like WARBRINGER can continue to make stoically traditional but relentlessly exciting records like "Weapons of Tomorrow", many of us would be more than delighted. Thrash never grew old, and it's records like this that make damn sure it never does.
WARBRINGER have long been one of the more ferocious modern thrash crews, but there have also been numerous moments when the California crew have hinted at a more expansive or experimental approach. That imaginative spirit is still present on "Weapons of Tomorrow": there are epic songs like "Defiance of Fate" that betray a penchant for '80s prog metal, and occasional plunges into more extreme, infernal waters, as on the blackened waltzing of "Heart of Darkness". But above all, what WARBRINGER deliver here is flat-out, swivel-eyed thrash fucking metal.
Vocalist John Kevill continues to be one of the finest exponents of the art around; as spiteful as any black metal shrieker, but with the personality and power of Zetro or Mille Petrozza, he's a formidable master of ceremonies and the human glue that brings this subtly diverse batch of songs together. He's on imperious form during opener "Firepower Kills" and the even more lethal "The Black Hand Reaches Out": an instant, crowd-pleasing classic with a hook to murder for. Elsewhere, WARBRINGER revel in the depth of thrash metal's core ideas, with snappy, skull-rattling fare like "Power Unsurpassed" clicking perfectly into place alongside the likes of "Outer Reaches", with its haunting keyboards and VEKTOR-like intensity, and grimly gothic closer "Glorious End".
In fact, "Weapons of Tomorrow" feels like the kind of thrash metal album that bands used to make in the genre's glory days — ten great songs, killer production, a few bold new ideas but nothing that's going to irritate the average SLAYER fan, and enough raw energy to power us all through the next few weeks of uncertainty and tedium. Thrash metal, folks: it's still exactly what the devil's doctor ordered, and WARBRINGER are seriously fucking good at it.