Thursday, July 25, 2013

Atomic Head - March of the Urban Zombies

Atomic Head prove themselves to be a promising act with "March of the Urban Zombies," their debut full length. Thrash does as Thrash has done on this release and while Atomic Head surely do not do much to separate themselves from a lot of acts that have already made a name for themselves such as Havok or Warbringer, both who share very similar styling to this Chilean group, the full length puts them in the general vicinity of the rest of the above average pack. Though Atomic Head still have a bit of growing to do, moments across the release offer a glimpse into what could become something excellent. While guitarist Sebastian Galindo played live with Battlerage several years back, this has absolutely no resemblance to that better known Chilean pact and I would reach for Atomic Head's disc before glancing in the other direction. I would actually pick up Atomic Head's disc before a whole lot of modern thrash projects. Chile apparently has a large swath of Thrash bands, all of which I've never heard of with the exception of Demona and Acero Letal, bands which I've come across demo tapes of somehow but Atomic Head have placed themselves in a position to both draw attention to and lead a scene from the South American country.

There are a lot of good things going on with "March of the Urban Zombies." For one, the musicianship is excellent on the release and, as a bass player, I always seem to pay attention to what the bassist is doing - something ignored and deplored by most interested parties. With Atomic Head, however, the bass is more than prominent and demands attention. Bassist Diego Carrillo - borrowed perhaps from Evil Madness - is impressive on the album. Atomic Head do a good job of reviving memories of stuff we all grew up with and nurturing those memories without attempting to recreate them. The title is a good example as, for me, the intro reminds me of "Hangar 18" for some reason, even though it doesn't sound anything like the classic. Personally, the best two tracks here for me include fourth track, "Friendly Knives," which enforces it's thrash authority with a memorable and strong intro which should be longer than it is. The song has somewhat weak verses compared to the bridge, intro and solo sections which are awesome. The final conclusion track is also a beast. "Nephilim" is the only song to really significantly adjust the tempos on the album and it's placement in last place highlights it's uniqueness on the album after an album's worth of consistent speeds. The track opens with the oft-used and sampled George H. W. Bush 'New World Order' speech. Contrasted against the title, Atomic Head take a standpoint waved by many thrash bands though do so with a sense of cunning. The song is good though, and while it is far from perfect / amazing / groundbreaking, Atomic Head are at least honest in their thrashing ways.

So, with all the good and positive things said, "March of the Urban Zombies" is still flawed in several ways and even with a couple strong tracks, a lot of room for improvement exists. For one, the sample intro. Obviously made by the band themselves, it carries no nostalgia, no reference and acts as a set-up for the album title and not the content itself. There are too many topics covered in the tracks to warrant a sample overseeing the entirety of the release. The vocal production is raw. The very traditional thrash vocals here stand out not for their strengths of being passionate, varied and engaged but for being embossed against the music. They are mixed poorly and sound unattended to. Some reverb or a lower lower... something has to set the vocals into the music instead of standing out on top of everything and separating the listeners' ears from the overall track. Pacing is also an issue here on "March of the Urban Zombies." All nine songs are very stagnant in the variety of the tempos and riff styles. Other than "Nephilim" and "Friendly Knives," there are not many standout tracks.

Fans of thrash may want to add this to their lists to check out but for those seeking a more refined and finer product, "March of the Urban Zombies" may be something worth waiting on. Atomic Head, should they put out another album after this will probably be a significantly better bet in terms of quality. The band, while creative in their riff construction and talented in the areas related to technique, should be able to trump this effort easily if they focus their efforts on creating individual songs that had a specific purpose in relation to album flow, as monotony is the most significant factor holding them back here.

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