Shattered Existence reviews
Felix%201666 on August 3rd, 2017
Day of the double X (1/5): Thrashing for Margaret
I guess I cannot be blamed for spreading lies when saying that Margaret Thatcher never was a friend of Germany. That's okay, she had her convictions and her experiences. And she was hopefully not interested in thrash metal. Otherwise she would have been full of envy with regard to the wealthy German scene and the sensitive clowns from the British island. D.A.M., Slammer, Sabbat, Re-Animator, all of them died a sudden death or they went strange ways (Onslaught) while seeking their stylistic niche. Xentrix are among the bands that did not have the persistency that it needs to enter the top rankings.
To avoid misunderstandings, all these short-term bands from the United Kingdom released more (Sabbat) or less (D.A.M.) great albums, they were just dropping like flies due to business problems. Xentrix also created strong vinyls. "Shattered Existence" holds thrash metal in the vein of Testament, before the US Americans discovered the softer tones that they offered on "The Ritual". The songs reveal no major weaknesses and do not indicate that one is listening to a debut. The coherent flow of all tracks is remarkable and the same applies for the well balanced and nearly perfect production. "Shattered Existence" is one of the full-lengths which demonstrate that a well audible bass, which takes the role of a restless troublemaker, is very helpful for a heavy sound. The same can be said about the vigorous lead vocals of Christ Astley. He was born in 1968 and this alone illustrates his enormous qualities... little joke. However, Astley does not shine with an impressive range of tones, but he makes good use of his options and does not lack charisma.
Without being mediocre or substandard, the material of the B side is less catchy than the songs of the first half. With the exception of the thrilling, aggressive and dynamic "Bad Blood", the slightly longer tunes set other priorities. They do not strive for innovative excellence and avoid inadequate experiments, but their structure is a tad more complicated and they lack a tiny little bit compactness. For example, "Reasons for Destruction" starts grippingly, but it cannot conserve this level during its entire duration. Thus, the majority of the album's highlights meets each other on the A side. A casual riff opens "Crimes", the song accelerates quickly speed and becomes more intense, before the verse falls back into the rather mid-paced pattern of the beginning. The instrumental part adds a short Iron Maiden tribute (well, this is not an isolated case on this debut) and all these details form a mature thrasher. "Dark Enemy" is another gem, because its rapid approach contributes five or ten percent of additional currishness. Not to mention the straightforward, short and speedy opener.
"Shattered Existence" was no highly original thrash output, but it enriched the genre due to its well executed, lively and fresh tracks. And by the way, the socio-critical lyrics belong to the better part of the thrash poetry of the eighties. It is still a good thing to listen to this album every now and then and the vinyl format is the best option, because there is no need to skip single songs. Despite or exactly because of the German thrash metal superiority, I bet that even Margaret Thatcher would have loved "Shattered Existence". Otherwise I will never again call her "Iron Lady". Take that, Margaret!
hells_unicorn on December 17th, 2012
Keeping the British end up.
If ever there was a clearer case for an argument against the rule that imitation equals dilution, it's the heavy onslaught (no pun intended) of great thrash bands in the late 80s, many of which were toiling in the underground going back to the mid or even the early 80s. It literally got to the point where the UK, which had helped to birth the style via the NWOBHM, got into the act and managed to field a few bands to rival the massive scenes coming out of America, Germany and Brazil. Perhaps among their less original yet more potent offerings to come out of the British Isles was Xentrix, a band that may as well have been founded in San Francisco circa 1984 rather than in Lancashire. But as stated earlier, originality isn't everything.
Right at the tail end of the 80s, this band released a very impressive debut in "Shattered Existence" which stands tall as the sort of album that the likes of Metallica and Testament should have put out in stead of "...And Justice For All" and "The New Order". Far from being an overlong, hyper-repetitive, top heavy affair like the former or a overly simplified, radio friendly one as the latter, this album channels all of the right elements that made both band's early offerings such massive fits of spine-crushing mayhem, while also maintaining a soldier like precision between the rhythm section and the pounding riff work in a manner fairly similar to the contemporary offerings of Exodus. The guitar tone is as solid and biting as heard on "Fabulous Disaster", and the vocal work rings quite similar to the mid-ranged gruff normally heads out of Hetfield and Chuck Billy, mixing in a few New York elements here and there with backing gang voices at key points.
Perhaps the lone area where this band manages to carve out a unique niche for itself is during the lead guitar breaks, where a less derivative approach manifests itself. Whether it be a brief passage during a riff on the fist-pumping opener of an anthem that is "No Compromise", or the Iron Maiden inspired melodic passages heard on "Balance Of Power" and "Position Of Security", there is a singing quality to the guitar work that is very different from the generally wild, noise-steeped character of the King vs. Hanneman approach that was increasingly common by the late 90s, and even so compared to the slightly more restrained style exhibited by Megadeth. It also provides an interesting foil for the vocal work, which is pretty limited in range and mostly stuck in the gruff-driven orthodoxy of a typical James Hetfield clone. This album pretty well lives and dies on an innovative approach to songwriting that, in contrast to a growing trend among thrash bands by this time period, didn't require a song to go on for 7-8 minutes in order to change things up.
It's something of a curious thing that while the British had an obvious leg up on the formation of early 80s heavy metal and the punk scene that preceded it in the 70s, they were late to the game and heavily dependent on Germany, America and Brazil on trying to figure out the newer subset known as thrash metal that was born from both. Nevertheless, bands after the mold of Xentrix definitely kept the best elements of Bay Area thrash going at a time where a number of bands were starting to drift away from the style in favor of something more slowed down and radio-friendly. This isn't quite up to the same level as the glory days of 80s Exodus, but those who took to that particular sound will find a welcome discovery in this album.
autothrall on December 10th, 2010
The balance swings for you
Though they were considered little more than average in their day, Xentrix were easily one of England's more consistent thrash metal acts. Their debut Shattered Existence might have fallen somewhat short of iconic, but to these eyes and ears, it was just another in a long line of examples that once made the Roadracer imprint of Roadrunner records so damned special in the 80s, before it was merged with the parent, its roster whittled into nothingness, out in the cold, and looking for handouts from other labels. You won't find much by way of innovative writing here, the band was very clearly influenced by US acts like Metallica, Testament and so forth, but what they lacked in originality they compensated for with structure and sound.
Even today, two decades past the fact, Shattered Existence still sounds potent, thick with banks of thrusting guitars that dance between semi-fast and mid-paced moshing tempos, with subtle hints of complexity that don't entirely manifest into what some might consider 'technical' thrash, ever mindful of the accepted verse/chorus patterns that were carried into metal from the pop and rock genres. Chris Astley had an aggressive vocal style with a little less sharpness and emotional dialog, than say, James Hetfield, but by the standards of the late 80s it was efficient and created a functional symbiosis with the guitars and solid rhythm section. "Balance of Power" is my clear favorite of the album, and the first track I've heard from it, a simplistic momentum not unlike "Seek and Destroy", but I also enjoy the faster "Back in the Real World", the vicious "Dark Enemy" and the Testament-like "Bad Blood and Reasons for Destruction".
Not every song is memorable, but there aren't any I'd really consider bad. The opener "No Compromise" only has one good riff (the first), and then the chorus sounds similar to the great opener "Questions" from their sophomore For Whose Advantage?, and "Position of Security" is also pretty weak, with "Heaven Cent" suffering from some lame, pinchy Dave Mustaine styled vocals in the verse, until Astley returns to his Hetfield/Billy howling. Otherwise, the album is engaging enough to spin on occasion, though I wouldn't target this as essential if you're tracking down thrash/speed metal gems from the time period. The full-length followup is a better solution, with a handful of more enduring tracks, though the style is very much the same. As far as British thrash metal outside of legends like Sabbat or Onslaught, Xentrix showed a lot more promise than an Arbitrater, Decimator or Deathwish, but their dearth of ideas might have dragged them below the radars of the multitude.
morbert on April 13th, 2010
Frame of reference issues
Because let’s all be honest. This is one of those eighties albums from the grey area. It’s a far cry from everything we call classic yet nothing is bad here. In a way this is exactly what a term like ‘mediocre’ tries to describe. But hey, we’re talking ‘bout the impact of the album back then.
These days, with the internet and all, pretty much being able to hear every fart ever produced globally by any metalhead with a guitar and his or her friends, our frame of reference has changed. And compared to a lot of obscure C and D-rate eighties acts I’ve discovered years later, Xentrix were actually pretty good albeit too often resorting to ‘borrowing’ from Metallica in the riff department and Chris Astley’s vocals.
What Xentrix does here is playing very laid back thrash. For more than half the album you’d be unwise to expect riff laden Bay Area inspired stuff, High pitched screams, technical outbursts nor anything remotely comparable to the assault coming from the Teutothrash scene or the brutality from Brasil. Xenrix were just, relaxed.
The songs with faster moments, ‘No Compromise’, ‘Dark Enemy’, ‘Bad Blood’ and ‘Reasons for Destruction’ differ in quality of catchiness. ‘No Compromise’ and ‘Reasons for Destruction’ are the best thrashers here. Lots of dynamics, changes in pace, strong choruses. On ‘Bad Blood’ however nothing sticks. The vocals lack pretty much everything. Some riffs feel like cheap Metallica rip offs. ‘’Dark Enemy’ is better but could’ve done with a catchy chorus.
Because, catchiness is where it’s at, concerning Xentrix. They are able to write a memorable chorus, great leads and harmonies but when they fail to do so, their mediocrity in the pace and riff department painfully shows. And I pretty much dislike how Chris Astley barks his way through some of the faster songs when one knows he’s also able to write and sing much better.
I don’t say it often, but Xentrix is one of the rare thrash metal bands that are better on this album when playing slow. ‘Balance of Power’ and ‘Crimes’ are the prime examples. Vocalist Chris Astley clearly has more room to sing and the leads & harmonies on both these songs are sheer beauty. Here we can hear Xentrix’ full potential.
Now if only Xentrix would’ve been able to combine the vocal lines and melodies from the slower tracks which the hook-laden faster moments as they showed on No Compromise, they surely would’ve become a bigger and more popular thrash act outside of the U.K.
CrystalMountain on January 7th, 2009
Underrated, but far from perfect
Well I don't know if I enjoyed this album quite as much as the previous reviewers, I find it to be quite bland at times, but it is certainly underrated. Being rarely ever talked about even amongst hardcore thrash fans. The band sounds ALOT like Metallica as I'm sure you all ready know, a little too much really. But these guys play well, and the riffs are abundant. The production is great, the musicianship is solid. If there's one big flaw in the band it's their vocalist, other seem to think he does fine, but I'm just not a fan. To say that he's better than a prime James Hetfield is laughable to me, but to each his own.
The album starts off with "No Compromise" and right away the Metallica influence is obvious, but the song is kick ass. Both heavy as fuck and catchy as hell. "Balance of Power" is quality, and so is "Crimes" which chugs along at a nice pace. "Bad Blood" sounds a little more like Exodus than Metallica, maybe it's the gang vocals, or the wild guitar, good song though. "Heaven Cent" is a nice closer, probably the best song on the album, the vocalist does a little snarling here and he actually manages to sound pretty good.
All of the songs are solid, nothing stands out as being overtly bad, but once you've heard one, you've heard them all. I do enjoy this album alot, but I just have to be in the mood for some mindless thrash to want to listen to it. If you're a fan of other Metallica clones like Defiance or Accuser, then you're sure to love these guys as well.
whiplash50 on August 29th, 2005
Thrash's finest hour
Sure it's easy to notice in some of the harmonies and melodies by these guys that they were obviously influenced by early metallica, but Xentrix just have something indescribably cool about them metallica doesn't (maybe they don't paint their nails? just kidding), but this is truly an amazing listen here. The opener 'No Compromise' prepares you for 8 more tracks of blissful metal. Balance of power I think is easily one the most inventively written thrash songs ever. Getting into the middle of the album we hear some riffs that kind of resemble old Annihilator, and many timely and well executed change ups, noticeable mainly on Back in the real world, bad blood, and reasons for destruction. The melodic notes played about a minute into Position of security will without a doubt make even the most avid Metallica hater think of their earlier years, but in a slightly different way. Bottom line, this is a milestone in British thrash history and needs to be heard by all fans of metal.
overkill67 on August 20th, 2004
Britain's Best Thrash Act!
A fact that is not known to very many people is that Xentrix started out as a Metallica cover band. Before you go on bashing Metallica, which for the most part is completely justifiable, we musn't forget how influential albums such as Master of Puppets or ...And justice for all helped shape the commercial aspect of the thrash metal movement. Anyway, back to the album. Starting off with "No Compromise", the album begins with a direct kick to your ass and immediately sucks the listener inn. The riffs are heavy and tasteful and the song structure is tight and powerful. The best song on the album has to be track #2 which is titled "Balance Of Power", everything about this song right down to the lyrics is sheer trash brilliance. Next up is "Crimes" which again is a nod to old school Metallica...only done better. Track #4 is titled "Back in the Real World", many time changes are found in this one and the Bay Area would be proud of its Eastern neighbours, since this song could've easily been found on a Defiance record. tracks 5-8 are all great songs but don't really offer anything extra special that deserves to be analyzed. The last song on the album "Heaven Cent", is a great closer for this record and stands as one of the top three songs on this full-blown bonafide thrash metal hardifact. Chris Astley's voice is so reminiscent to James Hetfield at times on this album that its almost eerie. However, Chris's voice is much more flavorful and is not near as annoying as Metallica's frontman. He knows his limitations, unlike Hetfield and therefor never ends up singing out of key.
Overall, a great album from a great thrash band that remained pretty much oblivious to the North American market.
UltraBoris on August 18th, 2002
Bay Area styled thrash!
This is a nice fucking riff-o-rama of a thrash album, that sounds a lot like the Bay Area style, especially a punchier, more to-the-point Metallica, with some New York thrash influences here too (Nuclear Assault) - that said, this band is from Britain. Some of the riff work also is reminiscent of Kreator "Coma of Souls" and definitely Master "Talk of the Devil".
We start out with "No Compromise", which is very short, to the point, and features some really abrupt tempo changes, almost in the style of a Forbidden "Chalice of Blood". Chris Astley has some kinda punkish vocals, and the general demeanor of the album is, while overall thrash, definitely with an overtone of British punk (i.e. the Sex Pistols).
Next, we have a few more pretty nice thrash songs, with similar riff construction styles, though not quite as overt or catchy as the first song. "Balance of Power" and "Crimes Against Humanity" stand out, and then we have "Bad Blood", which has a really nice chorus break and a Nuclear Assault style mosh riff after that.
The last three songs are just a bit slower and more bludgeoning than the first few, especially "Reason for Destruction". The album features a mix of thrash styles, mostly Bay Area as mentioned, while remaining interesting and varied all the way through. A highly recommended album.
Shattered Existence track list
|2||Balance of Power||05:14|
|4||Back in the Real World||04:00|
|7||Reasons for Destruction||05:36|
|8||Position of Security||05:06|
Shattered Existence lineup
|Chris Astley||Vocals, Guitars (rhythm)|
|Kristian "Stan" Havard||Guitars (lead), Vocals (backing)|
|Paul "Macka" MacKenzie||Bass, Vocals (backing)|
|Dennis Gasser||Drums, Vocals (backing)|