If Power Trip are like Metallica — the legion at the forefront of new thrash — then Helsinki’s Foreseen are a bit more like Slayer: less commercial, more savage. Yes, if you think Power Trip are a touch too composed, you’ll really dig Grave Danger, Foreseen’s second record. They’re always on the brink of completely falling apart from how fast they go, and the razor-thin threshold lends all the more danger. How much abuse can a Floyd Rose whammy bar take? This record tests those limits, with soloing that is complimentary only in its complete chaos. Finnish metal is best exemplified by simply being so extra — take Demilich’s ultra-low death metal vocals and Circle of Ouroborus’ far-out black metal as two examples — and while Foreseen isn’t on the avant-garde fringe, the dedication to punishing speed by any means necessary put its on the outer limits of thrash. Mirko Nummelin is equal parts hardcore barker and drill sergeant, and Danger’s less shaggy sound than its predecessor, Helsinki Savagery, puts you closer to his snarl than ever. He’s most forceful on the album’s fastest tracks, also its bookends: “Violent Discipline” and “Suicide Bomber” are suffocating in how much he dominates. It’s a record that constantly asks of you, how much can you take? You could say that about of lot of records in this column, but Danger is more extreme than its moshable riffs suggests.
(FYI, Texas readers: I will be at Foreseen shows in San Antonio and Austin on May 5 and 6, respectively. Come say what’s up! You especially shouldn’t miss the San Antonio show, as Graven Rite, featuring Eternal Champion’s vocalist Jason Tarpey, and Expander will open.)
Austin’s Iconoclasm are a trio of college kids who are making thrash that is already up there with the aforementioned Foreseen and Power Trip in terms of quality. While the material from their self-titled EP can be found on their self-titled 2015 LP and last year’s Out For Blood EP, it’s an excellent sampling of how far they’ve come already. Being from Texas, they’re obviously the spiritual sons of D.R.I., especially in “Above The Law” and “Executive Compensation,” both of which blow by so fast they’ll demand repeat listens out of sheer astonishment. “Out For Blood” sounds stripped straight from Reign in Blood, if Jeff Hanneman was even more of a crossover head. There’s a tightness they’ve developed that takes most bands past drinking age to get to, with a spunk that comes from getting started with combo amps. I am not an advocate for quitting school, but these dudes need to hurry up and graduate so they can blow up and get on some sick tours! If they shred this much now, imagine what will happen in a few years. Noisem must feel like geezers now.
One of the biggest music losses from last year that wasn’t death-related was Agalloch, the Portland quartet making some of the most breathtaking black metal around. John Haughm’s soldered on with Pillorian, and while it’s solid, I was left wanting more. The rest of the band reformed as Khôrada, but drummer Aesop Dekker has never been the type to keep himself to one band, as he also helped form Oakland death metal quartet Extremity soon after Agalloch’s demise. They’re a Bay Area behemoth, also featuring Vastum guitarist Shelby Lermo, Cretin guitarist Marissa Martinez, and bassist Erika Osterhout of Necrosic and Scolex. Autopsy’s Bay Area grime has rubbed off on them, and it’s certainly dirtier than a lot of old school worship records. You can smell the funk from Dekker letting his punk heritage loose, and since’s originally from death metal’s birthplace of Florida, he knows how to work in that context. There’s also a lot of Carcass, both in the grind influence and in the soloing — the ending “Crepuscular Crescendo” is total Heartwork, and “Bestial Destiny” is straight up Amott-Steer teamwork from Lermo and Martinez. Also, ponder “Fatal Immortality” for a minute. How is immortality fatal? Death metal rules, even — especially — when it doesn’t make sense.