National Napalm Syndicate – Time Is the Fire (Iron Shield Records)

Friday, 18th May 2018
Rating: 8/10

Originating in 1986, Finnish band National Napalm Syndicate have been back in their second incarnation since 2002. Guitarist Jukka Kyrö is the only remaining link between past and present – assembling new blood although vocalist Ilkka Järvenpää has been involved for the duration of the current resurrection. Digging deeper into the influence back to separate themselves from certain thrash prototypes, Time Is the Fire is the quintet’s fourth full-length and first in over nine years – and could be an intriguing release for those who enjoy some Finnish dynamics and twists against conventional riffing, hooks, grooves, and melodies.

What’s most alluring about National Napalm Syndicate is their use of clean, tranquil electric guitars at times that set a wider atmospheric birth than the rest of the thrash brigade. Check out the beginning strains of “Original Sin” which mutates into a heads down, mid-tempo crunch-oriented affair that has a bit of that older Metallica/Megadeth musicianship laden riffing as well as some lower/softer vocals to make this an album highlight. Of course you’ll get the normal stop/start material with twin guitar tradeoffs, militant marching tempos, and this sense of relentless energy a la Forbidden or older Slayer on “Obey the System” – but there’s these extra layers of intricacy in the bass play or sinister keyboard supplementation that aid the proceedings as a difference maker. Bassist Niko Karppinen adds that important free-floating bass ethic to up the musical quality of these arrangements, plus the band isn’t afraid to have a couple of killer Finnish language tracks in “Kuolema” (Death) and “Ken Tästä Käy saa kaiken toivon heittää” (Who Passes Shall Lose His Hope) that inject a bit of their cultural heritage in electric form while still being strong pit-worthy cuts.

The atmospheric/narrative strains for “Fallen Gardens” with it’s streaming water runs against cascading guitars provides a proper short reprieve from the regular action, while another short track like “Welcome to Tomorrow” reminds listeners of the sharp focus thrash can develop when stripped to its essential crushing elements. Add in a bonus rendition of “Blood and Fire” from Overkill and you’ll understand that Time Is the Fire is another testament to the passion and delivery of Finnish metal – hard to dispute the quality based on pedigree and talent.

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