West of Hell – Spiral Empire (Reversed Records)

Monday, 25th March 2013
Rating: 7.5/10

Realizing that launching a musical career in New Zealand wasn’t exactly the easiest of things to do, progressive thrashers West of Hell packed up their belongings and fled to Vancouver. After securing the services of former Zimmer’s Hole vocalist Chris Valagao, the band started the build a local following and were ripe enough to head into the studio with Fear Factory engineer Rob Shallcross for their debut album, Spiral Empire. Aside from its amateur cover art, Spiral Empire is a raucous plunge into advanced technical metal, all performed within a cohesive frame.

Valagao is much better served in West of Hell than he was in Zimmer’s Hole, for his tonal and forceful vocal style hits the spot right off the bat on album opener “Father of Lies.” Here, Valagao is able to grapple with the band’s flurry of riffs, most of which are in the classic Megadeth vein (think Rust In Peace). The fact that Valagao can entrench himself in such complex and adventurous music says enough – just take a peek at the thrash-oriented “Water of Sorcery” and “To War.” Dude has one of the more digestible pipes in modern thrash, that’s for sure.

Since the band were wise enough to align with a producer like Shallcross, Spiral Empire benefits from brisk sonics across the board. The punchy riffs of Sean Parkinson and Ivan Vrdoljak create a maelstrom of aggression and melody (see: the title track and “Water of Sorcery”), all the while the remaining tasteful and in touch with thinking-man’s thrash, no high Reebok thrash.

Hard to discredit a band who traveled such a long distance to establish themselves, and Spiral Empire sticks out in a ratty thrash pack thanks to its unabashed riff sorcery and Valagao’s vocals. Blistering wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised if West of Hell made the jump to a bigger label. Pretty solid stuff…C-league thrash cover art notwithstanding.

 West of Hell on Facebook

(This content originally appeared on Blistering.com)