Deliciously uncompromising old-school thrash

Sydney’s Dark Order have been around now for 18 years, making them one of the longest-running metal bands in the country.

To show for it they’ve got two previous albums, a breathtaking string of line-up histories and not much else as the band has rarely been stable long enough to establish a foothold. It’s a testament to leader Raul Alvarez Garcia’s seemingly unshakable self-belief that he’s been able to keep Dark Order around this long and just as remarkable that he’s finally been able to complete a third album after the yawning seven-year gap since The Violence Continuum.

With Cold War of the Condor, Dark Order almost completely max-out the CD playing time with an epic treatment of Chile’s totalitarian Pinochet regime, illegally installed by a CIA-sponsored coup during the infernally corrupt Nixon administration and eventually costing the lives of thousands. The band details 17 years of bloodshed over 14 exhausting tracks, most of which are played out in their deliciously uncompromising old-school thrash style as if everything after Seasons in the Abyss simply never happened, rapacious full-tilt riffs, blazing solos and Garcia’s arsenal of Araya-styled rasping barks and shrieking warcries. Occasionally though, there’s a poignant acoustic moment like “A Lament for Victor Jara” – the political activist who was one of the first victims of the junta – and “Villa Grimaldi” is dark and creeping like one of early Skinlab’s moody pieces. Raul uses his real singing voice in both “Victor Jara” and the evocative coda “Requiem Eternal” too, in stunning contrast to his regular frenzied wail. Most of the time, however, this is nothing short of a thrash metal feast that is without doubt the best thing this band has ever done.

The album’s downfall however is that it’s just too damn long. Cold War of the Condor is even longer than the latest Exodus album, and it probably doesn’t need to be. Some of the tracks could have been cut in half or at the very least lost a couple of minutes without anyone noticing: there’s no real justifiable reason for “Operation Condor” to be eight and a half minutes long. This isn’t Dream Theater or Opeth, with sweeping instrumental breaks or dizzying technical histrionics, and as good as it is, there aren’t quite enough stylistic flourishes to keep the interest up for the full 76 minutes. Despite this, Cold War of the Condor is something all thrash fans should check out immediately.

1. September 11th 1973
2. Dissension of the Raptor
3. State of Siege
4. A Lament for Victor Jara
5. Tears of the Exiled
6. Caravan of Death
7. Villa Grimaldi
8. Operation Condor
9. The Disappeared
10. Operacion Signo Veinte
11. Criminal of State
12. Blood Fire
13. Continuum of Cold War
14. Requiem Eternal