SINCE their first release in 2008 it is fair to say that Warbringer have been one of those thrash acts that for a time seemed to be caught, at times, in a bit of a rut, but always promised to be one of the better bands treading their metal wares.
However, their new album 'Woe To The Vanquished' takes all the promise, pumps it up to 10 and unleashes something that is sure to be treasured in future years - and contains their magnum opus.
Most of the album takes the Warbringer template and enhance it with more poise. In fact what they do on this album is rein it in at times to ensure the effect is more rounded, without sacrificing - for want of a better word - the metal.
Indeed it is clear that there is a purity of approach, such as on the title track with its pacing and solo trade offs between Carrol and Becker.
Enhancing their overall sound is what is sometimes used when a band tries something a little different - the 'P' word. Add any change-up, different arrangement, or different solo and suddenly assorted people latch on and declare that there is progressive elements. It's not progressive to try and bring new elements to a band; it's called evolving as a unit and as individual musicians.
Don't be mistaken, however, that Warbringer are walking away from the thrash and can still deliver a straightforward smack in the face, such as on 'Shellfire'.
Lyrically the take on contemporary and historic events is more impressive as Keevil wrestles with topics such a the perception, right or wrong, that law enforcement in the US acts as if it is an armed militia rather than a police force on 'Remain Violent'
One song of particular note is 'Spectral Asylum', which achieves the remarkable feat of making a thrash track sound almost trippy and psychedelic. Tasty take on what Mastodon do without ripping off, just putting their stamp as they progress as a band (and, no it's not a fucking progressive metal track!)
We must come at some stage to consider the 11-minte plus closer 'When The Guns Fell Silent'. Opening with Keevil reciting a section for war poet Siegfried Sassoon's "Prelude: The Troops" the song is split into five sections, one of which draws on Gilbert Frankau's 'The Voice Of The Guns'. The song could have sounded verbose and bloated, but touches on the subject matter of the suffering of soldiers on the battlefield in a sensitive way: no glorification, no posturing, just a touching observation.
Elements of melody in Keevil's singing , balanced playing from all - this is the band's magnum opus, their finest achievement to date. Like all masterpieces there are a few tiny flaws, but 'When The Guns Fell Silent' is a great song; a song that you end up coming back to again and again.
And, this is an album that we will be playing long after the review is completed...
Review by Jonathan Traynor