Warbringer are back with new offering IV: Empires Collapse, out now via Century Media Records, two long years after 2011’s brilliant Worlds Torn Asunder. I know they pretty much put out a record every two years, but due to the fact that Worlds was arguably their best yet, some of us couldn’t wait for what was next. Which begs the question: Is the record worth the wait? I certainly think so. There are quite a few newer thrash bands who seem to have popped up out of the woodwork the last few years, with Havok being the Undisputed Heavyweight Champ, but I would say these guys are a close second or third for sure. I like to say they’re kind of like Slayer, but with much better vocals, and wait and see what kinds of reactions I get. You’d be surprised how many people agree with me.
So let’s see what’s what here. First of all, the album is unmistakably 100% USDA Prime Thrash Metal, California-style. But there are some differences this time out. Songs like “Black Sun, Black Moon” and “One Dimension” have more than a touch of NWOBHM running through their veins, and not coincidentally they are two of the album’s best. “Horizon” opens the album exactly like it’s supposed to, at breakneck speed, John Kevill’s vocals a unique combination of welcoming and berating while “Turning of the Gears” is not quite as evil, and has one of the finest running riffs here.
Another strong one is “Hunter-Seeker” which is firmly ensconced in Slayer territory. Again, that’s not a knock, as I will continue to exert my belief that they take Slayer’s brand of thrash and make it better. The breakdown is rock-solid too, and the lead work is fantastic. This song was BORN to be played live as is “Dying Light”, easily the darkest song on the album. Kevill really sounds like he means business, no doubt about it, and I can see one or both of these being live staples for years to come. “Scars Remain” starts out with a dash of blast beats before going from 0-60 in ten seconds and “Iron City” adds a serving of punk to the recipe, saying, “We’re gonna play it loud, and drink some shitty beer!” Classic, I love it!
“Leviathan” grinds the tempo of the disc way down and is the thrash equivalent of “And Now for Something Completely Different” from Monty Python. I love that they weren’t afraid to experiment and still stayed true to what works for them. My other favorite has to be “Off With Their Heads!” because it is succinct, to the point, and down to business. And at only 1:37, it hits you over the head and is gone before you can come to. “Towers of the Serpent” also starts slowly for the first minute before the pummeling begins and closes out the record in typical Warbringer fashion.
It’s funny. At first listen it almost felt like something was missing, but on that magical third time I really began to hear all the subtle nuances that make this undeniably a Warbringer release. And one of the great things about this album is an infusion of melody on some of the songs. Let’s face it, with thrash metal you can’t keep grinding out the same thing over and over and over, and on IV: Empires Collapse, it’s nice to see Warbringer taking some chances.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Hunter-Seeker”, “Turning of the Gears”, “One Dimension”, “Off With Their Heads!”, “Black Sun, Black Moon”, “Scars Remain”