Woe to the Vanquished reviews
SlayerESP666 on December 12th, 2017
Best Modern Thrash Album
This album has been out for about 9 months now and it just keeps getting better and better with every listen. It steers away from the typical crossover thrash that every modern thrash band seems to play now and gives us a full on assault of heavy, speeding riffs. The opening track, Silhouettes is a perfect way to start off the album because it gets you going and lets you know they mean business. It makes sense that they have opened their live shows with that song for pretty much every show since the release of the album. Side 1 of the album is extremely thrashy and heavy as tits. The screaming leads from Becker and Carroll are really what make this album what it is. Remain Violent is a slower track on side one that is extremely groovy and will have you chanting "VIOLENT" by the end of the song. The uncredited backing vocals by Mauro Gonzalez of Bonded By Blood really add to the chorus of the song due to just the difference in styles between Kevill and Gonzalez. The music video for the track is very entertaining too (especially since I was a part of it). It does a great job of portraying the message of the song.
Side 2 is a lot more melodic than side 1, but still has a lot of thrash within it. Initially I was not a fan of Spectral Asylum. I found it rather boring and repetitive but the more I listened to it I realized the amazing musicality of the song and just how far Warbringer have come as musicians to be able to write something like this. The whole second half of the song gives off a very haunting atmosphere, as if you are trapped inside your own mind. I am a huge fan of feedback hangs on albums into songs, and they nailed it here with Spectral Asylum hanging into Divinity of Flesh, my favorite track on the album. This song has a very melodic death metal feel to it, with blast beats at the beginning of the song with the harmonized opening riff. It has a very different structure than the rest of the songs on the album but in my opinion is the best track on the album.
And when the guns fell silent, at last
There's nothing that remains of the past.
When the guns fell silent is a masterpiece. There is not much else I can say other than that. Carlos Cruz while not only being an amazing drummer is a master at the acoustic guitar, not only in this song but also shown in the title track and shellfire. When the guns fell silent is basically the horrors of world war 1 put into a song. The breakdown that opens with the line "our tattered banners fly in the wind" Is one of the best parts of the entire album. It gives off that haunting atmosphere like you are there in the trenches in Europe during the great war.
The production on this album is perfect. The guitars are very mid-heavy and the snare is able to cut right through the mix. Jessie Sanchez's performance on bass was fantastic and adds a lot to the album. The mastering is a tad loud compared to many other albums, but I figure that is just the consequence of modern production and the so-called "loudness wars." The album cover is a perfect fit for the World War 1 related lyrical themes presented by Kevill. It is a beautiful piece of artwork and I really wish they would make a poster out of it.
This album in my opinion is the physical embodiment of what modern thrash should be all about. It is what I would call a "perfect album." I cannot find anything on this album that I do not like.
Felix%201666 on June 23rd, 2017
Overkill's "Taking Over" belongs to the best outputs of the once restless, now aging blood metal thrash groove machine from New York and "Electro-Violence" is one of my highlights of this album. It therefore awakens positive emotions that Warbringer build - voluntarily or not - a bridge to this classic work. "Remain Violent" copies the "Violence" gang shouts of Overkill's masterpiece and even Warbringer's neck breaking mid-tempo approach lies in close proximity to the less fast part of "Electro-Violence". Perhaps this effort is an unofficial cover version? Blitz only knows. However, the modern, strong and powerful production that does not withhold the bass guitar makes a difference and I want to believe that the similarity is pure coincidence. With that said, I come to the conclusion that "Remain Violent" is a great piece, immediately accessible, generic and authentic. By the way, it provides another proof that high velocity is a highly welcome, but not an essential element for a thrilling piece of thrash metal.
Be that as it may, let's see the full picture of Warbringer's fifth album. The media hype that accompanied their debut is long ago. No more premature hymns of praise try to manipulate the individual judgement and so one realizes very quickly that "Woe to the Vanquished" does not offer a new climax in the recent history of thrash, but it is definitely a strong and substantial album. Profound riffs meet a very well designed production that helps the lead vocalist to reveal his full abilities. Over and above his vigorous performance, Kevill's voice has become a trademark of Warbringer, inter alia in view of the fact that he is the only constant factor in the line-up of the formation. Nevertheless, the instrumentalists do not stand in his shadow. From a technical point of view, they are up to every trick - and, raise the flag, the compositions are also convincing. The energetic machine gun riffing at the beginning of the vehement opener poses a proper introduction and songs like "Shellfire" or "Descending Blade" have many parts that give full speed as well. On the other hand, the combo has written its first sonic monument. Of course, I am speaking about "When the Guns Fell Silent". But the band members should have kept the proverb about the cobbler and his last in their minds, because quantity and quality do not go hand in hand. The overlong closer is pretty decent, but one can discuss whether it is worth to invest more than eleven minutes of your precious life.
I prefer the more rabid attacks like the title track with its blast beats and its tremolo picking. As a German, I understand the meaning of "Woe to the Vanquished" very well, while metal freaks in Vietnam will wonder about the artwork. But let's stay in the here and now. Those who have monitored the progress of Warbringer's career know that the band was nearly always prone to release some incoherent or lacklustre songs. But "Woe to the Vanquished" has a lot of mature compositions. Some of them have a surprising depth, for example the relatively atmospheric "Spectral Asylum". It could be that the future of the band is golden.
HeavyMetalMeltdownReviews on May 21st, 2017
It is very interesting and also slightly amusing how musical genres, come, go and revive, usually in a 20-year cycle and thrash metal is no different. There are always those bands which stay true to their roots and continue to hammer out what they do best and there are those which experiment with their sound adding different edges to their sound. But in this 20-year cycle, it isn’t always about the established bands and thrash metal has spawned many fantastic bands in its rampage across the globe.
Exploding like a thunderous volley of shellfire onto the thrash metal scene in 2008, Warbringer’s name says it all with a good portion of their music focusing upon warfare. This running theme is done is true thrash metal style, think 'Disposable Heroes' by Metallica, 'Holy Wars… The Punishment Due' by Megadeth and 'War Ensemble' by Slayer rather than the story telling done by the likes of Sabaton and other power metal bands. Warbringer signed a deal with Century Media Records releasing 4 albums, each album getting better before moving on to Napalm Records and releasing their latest album, 'Woe to the Vanquished'.
'Woe to the Vanquished' follows on in the same vein as their previous album, 'IV: Empires Collapse' with many similar ideas being batted about; a testament to vocalist John Kevill and guitarist Adam Carroll, the only two remaining original members after a near fatal line-up shuffle in 2014. In a nutshell, if you happened to like 'IV: Empires Collapse', then 'Woe to the Vanquished' will be hugely appealing. However, there are few subtle differences, the first half of 'Woe to the Vanquished' is fast, heavy and brutal. The album fires rapidly straight off the bat with the song that announced a new Warbringer album, 'Silhouettes', as it forcefully pulls you into the album with its machine gun intro riff before descending into Testament style beat that bullies you into headbanging along to its nuclear holocaust lyrics. This brutality doesn’t stop there, Warbringer smash through the Roman themed title track with its stop start chorus which itches at you to announce that Kevill possibly has the best voice in modern thrash metal before moving onto the neck breaking and foot stomping riff of 'Remain Violent'. 'Remain Violent' is an excellent social commentary on the growing of riots occurring the world over recent with the emphasis on the police brutality that seems to be at the forefront of every riot, that would prick the ears of any Cavalera era Sepultura fan. The twin guitar assault of Carroll and Chase Becker work fantastically together driving memories of Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman in Slayer’s prime as they trade off guitar solos with each one having their own distinct tone and style.
Something happens halfway through 'Woe to the Vanquished' which in all honesty, makes the album. 'Woe to the Vanquished' takes a more progressive route with the albums closing track, the absolutely phenomenal epic, 'When the Guns Fell Silent' which is possibly one of the best songs written about World War One. Clocking in at just under 12 minutes, 'When the Guns Fell Silent' tells the story of the Battle of Verdun; debatably the bloodiest battle in human history and Warbringer not only manage to conjure up the sombre feeling of the battle, but also do it justice without glorifying the battle. 'When the Guns Fell Silent' is a movement in 3 parts, even dropping silent before blasting back for the final section proving that if you’re going to end an album, that is how you do it.
'Woe to the Vanquished' is one of the best thrash metal albums released this year and possibly one of the best you will have heard in recent years. It is fast and brutal but also has that factor of something else that is thoroughly enjoyable. With bands like Warbringer and Havok, the future of thrash metal is in safe hands.
SweetLeaf95 on May 15th, 2017
Woe To The Vanquished falls into the growing category of newer-age thrash records that didn't get caught in the crossover undertow that seems to have taken over the scene for a while, with little use of punk inspiration. Relying heavily on speed metal riffage and screechy distortion, it's no surprise that it's mainly focused on angry emotions and screaming vocals to carry out the message. However, it is a bit overdone at some points, and could have eased up in certain areas.
Music wise, it's definitely an earful and difficult to keep up with the whole way through. The earlier tracks made it tough to get into due to the overuse of long screechy soloing overtop of extremely fast rhythms, making it tough to digest. Adding in the drum blasting made it hit a critical point, overflowing all over the place. Thankfully, this isn't kept up through the entire release; tracks like "Remain Violent" and "Spectral Asylum" keep everything together a lot better, and don't give off a vibe of trying too hard at making music as heavy as possible. The distortions used are definitely unique, and when chugged at a rate that carries more of a melody, the blast beats in the background make for a spectacular experience. Slow moments in this are rare, but the album closer "When The Guns Fell Silent" definitely demonstrates their abilities to utilize suspense through an eerie acoustic intro, building up to a heavy but still calm composition. This is easily the most well-written track on the record. A bonus to this one is that it uses the bass to its advantage, rather drowning it out completely like on the other songs.
Like some of the song composure, the vocal work can be tough to handle as well. Obviously on the tracks that go overboard, vocal work is rough, lacking any kind of melody or rhythm at all, lyrics barely being comprehensible. This changes as well for the better on the toned down tracks, but his sing-scream technique is somewhat weak, as it's very screechy. However, "Shellfire" is an example of where the vocals are at their strongest, carrying more of a tune, matching the music a little better, and a pretty good delivery overall.Woe is definitely worth picking up, and is a great addition to the magnificent year we've had so far, but it has some sharp burs that aren't hard to get cut by if it's approached with the wrong expectations. The intensity level needs to be brought down a notch on some of these tracks for sure; they take the fast and insane style way too far, and it almost seems too overproduced for this type of music. Otherwise, it's a fairly good release requiring the right mindset.
Larry6990 on April 5th, 2017
Praise To The Victors
Yet another thrash revivalist band who stood the test of time and rose above the meek. Victorious stands Warbringer, California's answer to the extreme bands of the same ilk who stood before them (Demolition Hammer strikes me as the biggest influence/similarity). And lo, in the same vein of respect for their veteran peers, new release Woe To The Vanquished is a violent and aggressive ode to the victims of war. Bands in recent years are beginning to glorify war less and less, which is definitely the right way to go - not only out of basic human decency, but also because it produces music of the highest calibre due to its authenticity. From a moral standpoint, this album succeeds in sincerity. Musically, this album just flat-out succeeds. Those familiar with the "TOTAL WAAAAAARRR!!!" of old, and those new to Warbringer will both find their necks aching after some spins through this beast.
The rough production that gave these guys so much character has been sharply refined, and now sounds as precise as a sniper's crosshair, but equally as chaotic. The biggest improvement being John Kevill's utterly furious vocals. Ranging from aggressively ballistic to screamingly anguished, he's the perfect vessel to be upfront in the mix. It's nice to hear him still adding those 'ugh's and 'blegh's to accentuate certain sections. Lyrically, this is also Kevill's pinnacle. The atrocities of war simply cannot be understated, and the blunt way in which they are delivered is both harrowing and eye-opening. Take for instance, this passage from "Descending Blade:""I see my own face in the crosshairs,
A red dot between my eyes.
There's only one second 'til the instant when I die.
I never saw the bullet,
Never felt the impact.
Just the sound of the rifle's crack and everything went black."
The matter-of-fact words, combined with the way the music cuts off after this verse (almost too quickly) is a particularly beautiful moment. This feeling is no more evident than on the mammoth 11-minute closing track "When The Guns Fell Silent". The use of poetry, doom-laden ambience and blazing thrash metal, spread over five distinct movements, makes this a work of genius. The quintet's songwriting prowess also shines on the quick time changes of opener "Silhouettes", and the mid-paced Exodus-esque riffage of "Remain Violent". Not one song ever outstays its welcome, and they are all perfectly positioned on the album. The quickfire punches of "Shellfire" and the title-track keep the pace driving along whilst the touches of progression rear their heads on "Divinity Of Flesh". The startling change of tempo arrives with the ghostly "Spectral Asylum" - a haunting track that allows the listener to catch their breath, but doesn't allow the intensity to let up.
Kudos to Carroll and Becker for some pretty awesome solos dotted throughout the LP - and not just where you'd expect them either. The guitar duo also brought a plentiful bag o' riffs with them - so much so, that it's difficult to pinpoint one that stands out (except for maybe the 3:22 mark of "Descending Blade" - that's a real banger). There's also an incredible use of samples on Woe To The Vanquished - such as the bomb-drop in "Shellfire" (INCOMING!). After an incredibly consistent run of winning albums, Warbringer should only continue to roll inexorably on like a tank - mowing down the posers. 21st century thrash metal done the way it should be - with balls.
slayrrr666 on April 5th, 2017
The vanquished charge into war
Continuing to evolve through the years, reactivated Los Angeles thrashers Warbringer have continued to utilize their continued expansion of progressive elements into their trademark sound to further their stance as one of the revival thrash scenes leaders. Now coming back to active duty following their previous lineup implosion, the groups’ fifth full-length effort was released March 31, 2017 on Napalm Records.
Taking the charge right from the beginning, it’s obvious that the break didn’t change their initial standings as the music still screams their classic vibe. For the most part, this features tight, ferocious riff-work and blistering paces that fully retain the chaotic vibe of the bands’ early material which is a prominent feature throughout here. Diving and buzzing through the various series of ravenous tempo changes featured here makes for an utterly blistering and pummeling experience, with the ferocious patterns coming from all sides and never relenting in their mission statement offering up this fiery brand of thrash. The only breaks from the all-out assault here come from the decision to drop the ravenous tempos in favor of more relaxed melodic chugging and extravagant leads that serve their heavy-handed rhythms and bombast quite nicely, giving this one an incredibly effective series of breathers that serve not only the full-throttle section of the album but gives this a rather sharp contrast to make for an even more effective work here. The brevity of the album as a whole might be something to get over, as it requires the ten-plus minute epic simply to reach a prominent length could be an issue, yet that’s really nitpicking this one and it’s quite an effective effort overall.
Full of raging, intense thrash and plenty of solid songs, there’s plenty to like and even something to love about this release which brings their legacy back to the forefront as one of the pioneers of the genre and makes for a no-doubt interest for those that liked their past work or any revivalist thrash fan as well.
mjollnir on April 5th, 2017
A Slight Step Back
There has been this resurgence of thrash metal recently and some is quite good and some, not so much. I first heard Warbringer back in 2008 when they opened up for Finntroll and the first thing I remember thinking is that this was some pretty good thrash metal albeit a bit sloppy so they really didn't fit into the great thrash category but they definitely not in the "not so much" end of the spectrum either. I think my problem with them has been and always will be the vocals. Don't get me wrong, I take absolutely nothing away from front man John Kevill at all. This guy has worked really hard to keep this band together when all seemed hopeless. It's just that his vocals teeter on the verge of being part Mille Petrozza shrieks mixed with what sounds like metalcore shouts and I absolutely abhor -core vocals.
I have every one of their albums and I like each one in their own way. 2013's IV: Empires Collapse made me look at them a little differently. These songs were mature and well thought out and it appeared all was going great for this band. However, their struggles to keep a line up together plagued this band and in 2014, John Kevill was forced to make some serious decisions. Well, obviously he made the decision to keep going because you are reading this review of their fifth full length, Woe to the Vanquished. After several listens to this album I feel that this album is a good return but a bit of a step back from it's predecessor.
I think the biggest problem with this album is that it has a slight lack of coherence. Some tracks on here are killer thrash songs with monster riffs and seriously killer solos while some tracks seem almost filler. Not that every song has to be fast and brutal but it seems that when they try to do something other than just play pummeling thrash they come up a bit short. The album closer, "When the Guns Fell Silent" comes to mind here. It's over eleven minutes long for a band that rarely writes anything over four minutes. I also think shorter thrash songs work better. But here they try to be epic and it kinda missed the mark. The song is not that bad, it's just that a song like this does not fare well with those thrash/-core vocals. The vocals tend to get annoying on this album but for the most part they are thrash vocals that mix well with thrash music but this is not a really thrashy song. It also appears that they are trying to make sure the eleven minutes gets filled and it shows.
Then you have an all out ass kicking thrasher like "Descending Blade." This song may not be the fastest thrash song but it's got some killer riffs and great solos. "Spectral Asylum" has a lot of layers to it and in this instance it seems to really work. It has a lot of time changes and a lot of parts but they seem to do a great job of keeping it interesting. Contrary to that, "Remain Violent" is a moment where less is more. This song is great in it's simplicity and is fun to listen to. "Divinity of Flesh" is another really strong point on this album. The tremolo riffs that start the song give this song life and they use some of that same riffing throughout the song. The solos on this song are just insane. One of the better tracks on this album.
I am glad that Mr. Kevill was able to keep this band together and make another album. When this band is on, they are really on. I just think they need more cohesion in their music. If they can avoid the mistakes of this album and concentrate on making kick ass thrash songs, their next output could be their magnum opus.The Elitist Metalhead
TheGrunginator on April 4th, 2017
A Good Album That Was Suppossed To Be Great
Originally Written For The Grungy Land Blog
Warbringer’s grand return.
I wish I could say that I was itching to listen to this LP from the second I was aware of its existence, but that really isn’t the case. At one point or another, Warbringer was my modern thrash obsession. Having introduced me to the new thrash scene, and reigniting my love for thrash, Warbringer was my goto for heavy hitting thrash for years. Then Havok happened, then Lich King and so on, and I gradually forgot about Warbringer, not even realizing that the band was on a hiatus for years. Skip ahead to 2017, and Warbringer has returned to bring us a new batch of songs with a new lineup. Let’s dive right in.
Warbringer’s brand of thrash metal has always been focused on speed and intensity. Their major efforts, Total War and Worlds Torn Asunder feel very reminiscent of that early Slayer era of thrash metal, when every band tried their hardest to out speed and out angry everyone else. That sound is very much present on Woe To The Vanquished. The riffs on this LP focus very much on the overall speed and chaos of the explosive sound of the band. It’s certainly a far cry from the more complex and catchy sound of bands like Havok or Evile, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t falling for it. Maybe I have been listening to so much complex music lately that I needed something more streamlined, but Woe To The Vanquished certainly scratched that itch.
Every inch of this band feels revived. The production is very solid with each instrument mixed very discretely. I appreciate this cleaner production, though it does result in the more chaotic moments on the album sounding more messy and unfocused than intended. The drums pound with a ferocious energy, the guitars and bass absolutely shred, and John Kevill’s harsh, guttural shouts are just as snarly and mean as they have always been. So with a production and sound this great, why do I not remember a single track off this album?
On a track by track basis I was enjoying myself with Woe To The Vanquished, yet as I sit down to write this, I can’t bring myself to describe this album as anything more than generic. The riffs are fast, but Warbringer has done faster. The solos are loud and impressive, but Warbringer has been louder and been more impressive. The only thing that keeps this album from being a waste of time is the album’s length and Warbringer’s more experimental edge.
The album sits at just over 40 minutes with most of its songs not reaching over 4 minutes. Most would call that underdeveloped, but I found it to be of satisfactory length. I’ve railed against this before, but many modern thrash tracks end up feeling incredibly bloated and boring as the band tries desperately to act more progressive and complex than they actually are. Keeping this album short means Warbringer sticks to their strength: concise and intense speed. On the other hand, the closer “When The Guns Fell Silent” completely ruins the flow of the album as it stretches on for what feels like 8 minutes longer than it should have. The track “Spectral Asylum” meanwhile tries to be a bit more complex and dynamic than the rest of the album by being much slower and downright brooding, but it’s carried by a very bland marching riff that has been overdone in modern thrash for ages.
Woe To The Vanquished is an album marred by problems that modern thrash has been trying to fix for ages, but tries its best to stick to what made Warbringer so enjoyable in the first place. I suppose if you have waited for ages for another Warbringer album, you’ll enjoy it, but at this point it feels like the entire scene has outgrown Warbringer.
slaytanicarmy666 on March 31st, 2017
Return to Form
After numerous lineup changes and some experimentation in their musical direction on their last album "Empires Collapse", Warbringer promptly go back to their frantic thrashing with this one.
The album starts out fast with the devastating "Silhouettes" that sets the pace for the album. Almost all of the first six songs they keep their foot on the gas and show that they can still thrash your face off like they did on their first two albums. Then on "Spectral Asylum" and "Divinity of Flesh" they go more of a melodic route but it is done in a very tasteful way that does not get stale throughout each song as they incorporate a lot of fresh elements into them. Capping of the album is the 11 minute epic "When the Guns Fell Silent" which is split up into sections and proves to be one of the more interesting 10+ minute songs out there.
What is also really impressive is John Kevill's vocal performance. His high shrieks and yells are used more than they have been in the past and he goes extremely low on "Spectral Asylum" in ways that haven't been heard since he sparingly did on their first two albums. It is without a doubt his best vocal performance of the band's career to date. Carlos Cruz's drumming is frantic, tight, and extremely well-done (as is expected). Having Adam Carroll back in the fold sure gives this album one hell of an edge and it is great to hear those crazy over-the-top thrash riffs he writes. Both soloing by Carroll and Becker is fantastic as well. It is worth noting this album has some great bass presence as well and it is not something that is just drowned out in the mix, Jesse Sanchez does a great job here.
Overall, this album surpassed my expectations. After their last two albums, I was curious to see which direction they would go in and I am extremely pleased they went in a more thrashy, less melodic one. Certainly an album that will be in heavy rotation for years to come and is one of the best "modern thrash" albums released to date.