Reviews : Albums : Susperia, "Unlimited"

Susperia, "Unlimited"

I'm guessing that Tjodalv (drums) doesn't regret parting ways with Dimmu Borgir, despite the success and mainstream flirtations of the Dimmu lads. Simply put, Susperia, which Tjodalv formed upon exiting the Dimmu camp in 1999, is a band of which he can be very proud. After the debut "Predominance" and the sophomore follow up "Vindication", there seemed to be a shifting in emphasis toward a more thrash-orientated attack. "Unlimited" completes that journey, and fits in with the idea that music cycles back upon itself, a cannibalistic synthesis that sees the young feeding on the old in order to produce new ideas.

Thrash metal has seen its hey-day come and go, but it's refused to disappear from the metal consciousness. Norway, well known for its contributions to the black metal scene, has been consistently producing good if not great metal bands in all genres. You can go ahead and chisel Susperia's name above the door at Norway's Thrash Metal Hall of Fame, where the heroes of metal drink, fight, fuck and jam until called to the final battle. Much of the credit has to go to singer Athera, who has committed himself to making vocal choices that fit into the composition of the songs, staccato yelps and clean parts, blackened howls and monstrous shouts. It's hard not to think of Chuck Billy and Testament (especially later-day "The Gathering" era) when you first hear Athera; the influence of Bay-Area thrash is definitely present. But like any good synthesis, this is more than a simple regurgitation of ideas with new packaging. Tjodalv's drumming and the blistering guitar/bass riffage of Elvorn, Cyrus and Memnock really cements the deal. It's a killer mix of modern ideas and old school head space.

Opener "Chemistry" stakes out the ground Susperia is claiming and builds a solid foundation for the rest of the album; the melody which opens the song weaves in and out of the blasting thrash, and Athera's vocals immediately step up to the plate and deliver. "The Coming Past" has vocal parts which almost sound influenced by modern rock, but the music is very thrash; and in "Situational Awareness" Athera has me thinking Sacred Reich. "Devil May Care" is the longest song at almost six minutes, with a nice picked guitar melody at the intro and some odd female choir bits mixed into the furious guitar frenzy before the intro melody reappears at the half-way mark, before a wailing solo (3:38 - 4:05). I love the next song, "Off the Grid"; it's a real smash up. "Years of Infinity" is a cool song too, Athera once again making an impression with layered vocal styles, even whipping out a heavy metal style scream at the end. "Home Sweet Hell" slows it down just a hair and has some fine drumming; really Tjodalv is all over this album but you tend not to notice because he's also playing the pocket. Some of the ideas start repeating as you work your way into the back part of the album; "Mind Apart" has a melodic guitar intro giving way to brutal riffing but resurfacing during transitions, not much different from "Devil May Care". Not that big of a deal, really; but by the time "Beast by Design" and "Untouched" finish assaulting your ears, you should have a really good idea of this bands modus operandi. In fact, "Untouched" is a strong finisher, with a ripping riff and huge vocals.

I've got a weak spot for this kind of metal. Quality singing, killer musicianship, and well put together songs come together to equal a crucial formula. This kind of release also renews my faith in the metal community. While the metal scene may stagnate at times, it inevitably mutates into something novel as the musicians work through old ideas and infuse them with new inspiration. If quality neo-thrash metal floats your boat, you'll have eighty feet at the waterline after adding "Unlimited" to your collection.

Standout Tracks

   Chemistry
   Devil May Care
   Off the Grid
   Untouched

S.Gregory