Shrapnel - Hellbound
No label
Thrash Metal
8 songs (34:09)
Release year: 2010
Reviewed by Tyler
Surprise of the month

It has happened to the best of them; it has happened to nearly every genre of popular music ever devised. The trend goes like this: a pioneer or two create a genre, a couple of other artists come along with their own twist on the genre, the genre gains legitimacy, and with said legitimacy comes the legions of copycats hell-bent on capitalizing on the genre’s popularity. Unfortunately, this happens in metal, nearly more than in any genre. I see two reasons for this. Firstly, metalheads tend to worship their heroes like fans of other genres rarely do. Secondly, let’s face it, metal is an easy genre to rip off. For the many creativity-deprived youths of today, genres like thrash, black, and death metal seem formulistic enough; if you have somebody who can palm mute, someone who can tap and sweep, and someone who can do double bass and blast beats, you have the bare bones of an extreme metal band. In the admittedly little time I’ve spent picking through demos and EP’s from underground metal bands, I have found that by and large, bands that are stuck playing the smallest venues imaginable are there for a good reason; they have nothing about them that is even remotely new or interesting. However, that is why it is such a happy surprise every time that I find a band that, while adhering firmly to old principles, plays their style of metal in such an energetic and masterful way that I recall why the genre’s originators were so special and amazing to begin with. This is the case with Hellbound, the 2010 release by Shrapnel, a thrash band from Perth, Western Australia, who I can honestly say “gets it”.

Shrapnel’s sound falls pretty squarely into the thrash template created by the more aggressive thrashers such as Exodus, Kreator, and Slayer, so I really do not need to spend much time explaining the nuances of the music on Hellbound. However, for a completely unknown band, this is an incredibly professional work; the production is surprisingly crisp, and the instrumental performances are all incredibly concise and expertly done. The band is made up of guitarist/bassist/vocalist Andrew Doepel and drummer/vocalist Louis Rando (check out my review for his other band, Mhorgl). For two guys that few people have heard of, they really do a great job of creating a powerhouse rhythm section; Rando in particular shines with some really great drum performances. The solos are handled by a number of guests (presumably local musicians in Perth), and they are another musical highlight here, as each solo is as memorable as it is dexterous. Tempo-wise, the band stays in and around their “fast” setting throughout, except on the glorious, mid-paced stunner The Power is Mine (more on that later). The songs still manage a degree of catchiness, with lyrics that never stray from the Hell, Beer, and Thrash theme that the old guard was born on. Some bands have indeed strangled this ideal to death, but Shrapnel comes off as a band entirely devoted to the mayhem, destruction, and good time that is thrash metal.

From this one album that I have heard, it seems to me that Shrapnel is in a rare breed of bands. They are a band so completely unpretentious, and so devoted to metal’s basic principles, that they intentionally models their sound after the old-school because anything released after the 80’s is essentially irrelevant to them. That may be stereotyping of a sort, but its still refreshing to see a metal band who still plays solos and wears spikes, or who doesn’t know what a breakdown is and has never stepped foot in a Hot Topic. And to make the package all the more complete, the songs on Hellbound are actually quite good; there truly is not a boring moment on the album. While the album coasts along with plenty of technicality and speed for much of the album, it ends on its highest note with The Power is Mine. Of all of the promos that I received in 2010, that song may be my favorite song on any of them. It revolves around an incredibly simple power chord, droning and stomping along for much of the song. There is just something so incredibly addictive about it, and the speech near the end (complete with awesome heavy Australian accent) provides one of the most epic moments on an otherwise gritty album, meat-and-potatoes album. If you are a fan of thrash metal with a zero tolerance policy on bullshit, this is an album you should check out before the year’s end.

Killing Songs :
All are good, but The Power is Mine slays
Tyler quoted 77 / 100
Other albums by Shrapnel that we have reviewed:
Shrapnel - The Virus Conspires reviewed by Alex and quoted 77 / 100
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There are 2 replies to this review. Last one on Tue Dec 14, 2010 4:21 am
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