For a very specific group of people there is a hell of a lot to like on Walls of the Mind, the second full-length release by Ontario locals Slanderus. For those people, I’ve constructed a drinking game; read through this review out loud, and every time I name-drop a metal legend, drink. Basically, if you’re into the Bruce Dickinsonian (yes, yes, I did do that) vocals of an Iron Maiden record, the dense song structure and tongue-in-cheek lyrics of a band like Nevermore, and the larger-than-life sound scope of Iced Earth, you’ll probably love this album.
Surprisingly, it does fall very firmly into the category of progressive metal, and Walls of the Mind’s collection of riffs generally remains on the simplistic side. Don’t get me wrong; in terms of composition, there is nothing simple about this music. The average song length is about six minutes, and they don’t follow any sort of standard structure. The riffs themselves, though, tend to stick to more the more tried and true patterns of old-school thrash or the more recent NWOAHM. You’ll hear tons of spider-riffs a la Master of Puppets and powerchord-heavy breakdowns in the vein of This Godless Endeavor, but you won’t hear any truly labyrinthine passages, at least not the likes of which we’ve become accustomed to over the last few years from bands like Animals as Leaders or Periphery.
There are also very few real guitar solos. The focus seems to be on delivering simplistic metal tapestries to support the powerful vocals of Alan Alamillo, who delivers not only operatic bravado in the style of the aforementioned Dickinson, but also veers into occasional throat-shattering screams that would make Matt Heafy proud. He also adds a dash of that falsetto screech made popular by Rob Halford and King Diamond.
It’s also not the type of record you’ll be able to listen to casually. It’s very dense in its execution, rarely taking a break to turn things down any lower than eleven. The heaviest song is the eight-minute-plus behemoth “Stand in Line” where Alamillo has the most opportunity to unleash his screams over an awesome tech-death homage, but all the songs are pretty heavy.
The record’s real highlight is the lyrics; they’ll simultaneous make you think while drawing out a few offbeat chuckles. The chorus of the closer “The Significance of Insignificance” in particular pulls very few punches in reminding whoever cares to listen how little we really matter in the grand scheme of things.
Walls of the Mind will surprise you in no way. If you’re a metal fan, the mid-2000s thrash revival is very well represented, without adding too much to the formula. If you’re not a metal fan, this probably won’t convert you.
Written by Syd Ghan
*edited by Kate Erickson