Hatchet – Fear Beyond Lunacy (The End Records)Tuesday, 13th October 2015
Following the Thrash of The Titans benefit for Testament’s Chuck Billy in the summer of 2001, the floodgates reopened for a genre that hit the big time in the 1980’s only to lose momentum to the cutting edge death and power groove moments for the 1990’s. As a result reunions for Death Angel, Exodus, and Heathen have given new life to these artists – putting out current studio albums that cement their legitimacy – while a new generation feels the need to push their creative wares on the public.
Hatchet represents one of the ‘new blood’ acts hoping to cause a stir in the thrash waters. Fear Beyond Lunacy is the band’s third studio album, and at this point only guitarist/ vocalist Julz Ramos stands as an original member from their start nine years previous. In fact, the quartet has a full turnover from their last record Dawn of the End from 2013 – as drummer Ben Smith came in the following year while bassist Kody Barba and second guitarist Clayton Cagle entered the band in 2015. There’s something to be said for moving forward no matter what the cost – but one wonders if peddling riffs and song designs that have a lot in common with the earlier Bay Area originators is the sincerest form of flatter, or mere copycat syndrome unnecessary for the majority to subjugate themselves through?
The four-piece you see has a strong love for Megadeth, Testament, and a touch of Heathen in their tight down picking and crazy speed fills as the tempos for “Tearing Into Hell” and “Living in Extinction” prepare the audience for limb removal and pit carnage. Julz and Clayton certainly shred, dive bomb, and showcase every tapping ability in the book during their lead spotlights, possibly encouraging future axe mavens to study their technique and pick up a few tricks to add to their toolbox.
The band occasionally throw in more of a mid-tempo number to break up the bullet train efforts, but for some reason “Lethal Injustice” and “Killing Indulgence” just never take on any solid hooks or proper direction, giving off a third to fourth rate vibe that even Slayer or the aforementioned acts would leave on their rehearsal cutting room floors. The raspy scream/talk pattern of Julz and supplementary gang background vocals can be a winning or losing proposition, depending on your feeling of whether a singer should provide more melody in thrash or be another rhythmic element to the cause.
Unfortunately Fear Beyond Lunacy sees Hatchet take two steps back instead of a decent step forward – for my money, Warbringer and Havok are the best of this new US thrash movement where this is a textbook definition of average and uninspired.