Angelus Apatrida – Angelus Apatrida (Century Media)Sunday, 14th February 2021
Well-established in most parts of the world for their brand of thrash metal, Spain’s Angelus Apatrida may not be a household name in North America currently. They’ve yet to tour here despite being together since 2000 and joining the Century Media roster in 2010 for their third album Clockwork. Adapting to a challenging COVID-19 situation that shut down all touring plans for 2020 for the quartet, an intended EP release expands to their seventh studio album, and self-titled at that. As the ten songs roll out you feel that these musicians continue to be at the top of their game, injecting a mixture of thrash and groove metal influences with power, passion, and impressive songwriting mechanics.
Between the heads down guitar riff assault that is crunchy and stacked with massive hooks, the fierce and penetrating vocal roar of Guillermo Izquierdo, and the relentless and adaptable rhythm section action that can be full force one moment and then tribal/groove-driven the next measure, it’s hard not to find favor with Angelus Apatrida at surface level. Opener “Indoctrinate” right of the gate showcases both aspects – ramped up in full gear through the opening riffs, then midway through taking on a Pantera/Machine Head-like hockey stick turn that will get massive circle pit attention, the lead guitar break for David Álvarez featuring quick picking in a fluid, arpeggio-oriented manner a la Testament/Exodus. Neck-breaking, high octane twin rhythms make “The Age of Disinformation” another highlight, simplified gang background vocals punctuating the key lyrics – and the furious drum hits plus d-beat/punk aspects from Victor Valera will have “Childhood’s End” bring many back to the early/mid 80’s crossover days. Guillermo may not have wanted the vocal mantle to go along as a rhythm guitarist, but his ability to pick the right speed and notes within his range pays dividends throughout – slightly melodic but vicious in his snarls and screams a la Dave Mustaine with a bit of Phil Anselmo thrown in for good measure.
The veteran bands understand that you need to write material at varying BPM’s even in the thrash landscape – which is why the mid-tempo or slower songs gain immediacy in terms of hooks and memorable arrangements. Older Metallica meets Judas Priest in some of the circular riffs and steady drum aspects for “Through the Glass”, while the record closes with “Into the Well”, featuring a battering ram of guitar play, intense drum shifts, and varied low range melodies during the verses to intense raspy screams for the chorus. Recording with Juan Angel López and handing the mixing duties to seasoned vet Chris ‘Zeuss’ Harris ensures a sonic output that is crisp, lively, and begging for listening exposure that stands up months to years down the line.
Angelus Apatrida have now been around long enough that they garner respect and admiration for taking those Bay Area/ Teutonic thrash influences of their early years and transformed their sound into something attention grabbing, professional, and more original. If you love any type of thrash – old school or more modern – this record has a place in your collection and deserves to be consumed, heard, and treasured.