Finding a good thrash album in this day and age hits you like a perfect late-night drunk poutine. It’ll hit all the right spots and somehow circumvent any potential regret you could have had from your poor life choices (don’t ask me how or tell me to seek therapy). Strange Ways out of London, ON have most definitely done the metal pallet some serious justice with their most recent release Hand of the Maze with a simple yet intensely familiar barrage of fuckery.
The record cracks out with a very simplistic Slayer-esque vibe a la “Seasons in the Abyss.” Simple begets simple in opening track “No Heart,” but as “Unholy Rest” Kool-Aid mans its way into your ears, two things become very apparent about this record; these dudes are taking the term “crossover” very ambiguously and they definitely need to shop for a new mastering engineer. Addressing the stylistic side, both tracks previously named basically lay out the groundwork for the entire record with the exception of some interesting surprises that keep you on your toes and enjoying every second. Crossover typically refers to a thrash or speed metal combo with some old school hardcore notes, thus just making it a fucking thrash record since the two are so painfully similar. In the case of “Unholy Rest,” we see an interesting twist of some Pantera style groove which swells back into that big four flavoured thrash we all know and love.
With all the stylistic bending we get to satiate the need for breakneck heavy music, we also get an equal level of less than desired recording quality. Yes, a thrash record should sound old school as fuck, which is why I’m not really complaining about the heavy level of gated reverb or Kill ‘Em All / Ride the Lightening reverb that completely encases the vocals. It’s excessive but it still works with the incredibly Lemmy Kilmister variety vocal patterns and melodies in a James Hetfield outfit found here.
My real issue comes with the very choppy and almost one-note consistency that can be found with the guitar work coupled with the utterly unpredictable master volume levelling from track to track. A poor master can shave points off faster than a good manscaping can add it back (yes that’s a dick joke just fucking take it). Of course, this could be argued as adding to the very “old school” vibe that this record obviously takes a ton of pride in, but where does the line get drawn between poor quality and retro? No one will ever know and I’m far from giving a shit, this album bangs and is the precursor to what is obviously a fuckin’ wicked time to be had watching these dudes grow deeper into their sound.
Written by Jason Greenberg
*edited by Mike Milito