Lace up those white Reeboks and don your battle jackets, for the time has come to review Warbringer’s new album, Weapons of Tomorrow. Warbringer has been delivering consistent thrash metal offerings for nearly 15 years now, with their most recent album, Woe to the Vanquished, a highlight of 2017. This is Warbringer’s sixth studio album.
Thrash metal generally falls into two subcategories: (1) party, and (2) battle. Party thrash tends to prompt celebratory behavior, such as drinking watery beer and destruction of one’s own property. Battle thrash leads one to destroy other people’s property, vanquish his enemies and delight in the lamentations of their women. Battle thrash has a certain heft and depth to it that is instantly recognizable. Epic-length tracks take you on journeys through wastelands and plundered villages, with vivid descriptions of real-life horror and destruction. Rule of thumb: if it involves a guy on a horse with a sword, it’s battle thrash. Tanks and guns? Also battle thrash.
Warbringer plays high quality battle thrash, and Woe to the Vanquished was an exceptional example of the genre done right. That album’s closing track, “When the Guns Fell Silent,” was an epic eleven-minute masterpiece that left me feeling drained with barely enough strength to flip the record over. Pro-Tip: if you want to find the best song on a Warbringer album, it’s probably the longest one. Does all of this hold true to Weapons of Tomorrow? Let’s find out!
First, some notes for collectors. Warbringer is leveraging their new relationship with Napalm Records to bring you a variety of options for the physical release. The vinyl comes in blue and black variants. There’s also a limited edition CD box set that comes in a wooden box with a giant blue wall flag and lighter. For the diehards, you can get an exclusive bundle that comes with a shirt and skateboard deck emblazoned with the artwork from the “Firepower Kills” single. If you’re an analog guy or gal, Warbringer has you covered.
I was delighted to discover that Weapons of Tomorrow continues and honors the band’s legacy. From the opening minute of the album’s first track, “Firepower Kills,” Warbringer’s call to arms rings true. Age hasn’t dimmed the fire at all. Indeed, at about one minute in, John Kevill’s awesome Halford-style roar puts to rest any doubt about what might lie in store for you. There are multiple solos, galloping riffs, and a catchy chorus that will be wonderful live (if concerts are ever a thing again).
Next up, “The Black Hand Reaches Out” is a mid-tempo chugger about some kind of deep state effort to sow chaos. It was at this point that I really noticed the huge drum sound they achieved for Carlos Cruz’s kit. Locked in with the grinding bass (yes, audible bass!), the rhythm section on this album is bringing it.
There are two tracks on here that top out at over seven minutes: “Defiance of Fate” (7:08) and “Heart of Darkness” (7:12). Both demonstrate the truth of my theory: the longest Warbringer songs are the best. Kevill rasps his way through the opening minutes of “Defiance,” with some beautiful, reverb drenched guitar solos by Chase Becker interspersed between verses. Even Cruz gets in on the action by contributing a guitar solo here, demonstrating that he is a jack of all trades (in addition to being an all-around swell guy and frequent ambassador for metal on the internet). The last couple of minutes are comprised of a beautiful arrangement of soulful melody.
The winner here is “Heart of Darkness,” which opens up with a delicious bass line that is quickly joined by acoustic guitars that set you up for the wall of sound pummeling to come (Chase Bryant’s bass sounds excellent throughout this record). Cruz blastbeats you while the guitars play an awesome 6/8 riff through the intro section. On cue, Kevill descends on the scene with his trademark perfect metal diction about horror, pillage, and plunder. Becker and Adam Carroll get back-to-back solos, each one stellar and memorable. There’s a wonderful crescendo like a battle scene climax, before you are gently laid to rest. The seven-minute track time rushes by.
The last track is entitled, “Glorious End.” I’ll bet you $10,000 that about every other reviewer out there will write some stupid line about this song being “aptly named,” so I won’t make you groan by doing so here. I’ll just say that this song includes every ingredient you want to have in a Warbringer song and accomplishes what a closing track should: you feel compelled to flip the record over for another round of battle.
Let me be clear: this is not “John Kevill and the Warbringers.” While Kevill’s vocals may be a major draw here, this band’s whole lineup delivers on all fronts. You’ll definitely achieve your recommended daily allowance of fist pumps and find yourself lifting crates’ worth of invisible oranges with this album. Weapons of Tomorrow has a slightly darker and more aggressive sound than the prior album, a change that I think better captures the spirit of what Warbringer is trying to accomplish. The production on this album is solid.
Warbringer fans are going to welcome this album into the stable with open arms. There’s a comforting consistency here that is what we need in these crazy times. While Warbringer may not break much new ground with these songs, the battle thrash on offer with Weapons of Tomorrow is an excellent addition to the catalog.
Favorite Songs: “Heart of Darkness,” “Glorious End,” and “Defiance of Fate”
Release Date: 4/24/2020
Label: Napalm Records
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