No Return – Fearless Walk to Rise (Mighty Music)

Tuesday, 21st April 2015
Rating: 8/10

Visible for a nano-second on these shores thanks to the Nuclear Blast release of their 2002 album, Machinery, French death thrashers No Return have quietly held court as one of their home country’s forerunners of the style. Why they never progressed beyond “sorta familiar” territory with listeners is anyone’s guess, but the sheer execution factor on their ninth (!) album Fearless Walk to Rise stands for something. And for a band who has been at it for over 25 years now, it could be one those late-career shots in the arm. Never hurts to get one of those.

Stylistically, the Frenchmen hover somewhere between the brunt brutality of Dew-Scented and measured melodic aspects of Darkane. Granted, they’re not quite the technical mavens Darkane are, yet the light-on-the-feet “Stronger Than Ever” (the album’s strongest cut) displays a rather harmonious blend of melodic death metal and straight-European thrash. And the band doesn’t spare much expense when it comes to centralizing their songs; “Sounds of Yesterday,” along with “Face My Dark” and “Bloodbath Legacy” each pinpoint a few quality riffs to ride all the way to the bank. (Lest we forget how fluid all three jams are…the song construction here is top-notch.)

The arc of many European thrash-on-melodic death metal bands almost always finds a stunt point, or, a brick wall. It’s happened for several high-quality bands, like Dew-Scented, Hatesphere, and even No Return, who appear to be more unsung than they really should. On Fearless Walk to Rise, the Frenchmen turn in one of the year’s most durable and vertical albums of 2015 thus far. And, it’s a real sleeper, which is always more fun to enjoy than albums with far more pomp and press behind them.

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