An examination of power and identity

To be able to carve out a style of metal that’s uniquely Australian is tough, but Wollongong based thrash meets groove act Nekröfeist have stepped up to the challenge.

Their new album …Without Reserve or Regret is clearly influenced by a number of international artists, but awesome musicianship and intriguing lyrical content make this a solid, if familiar, release.

Rather than pump out an album about Satan and murder, Nekröfeist take the listener on an examination of power (or lack thereof) and identity. Essentially the album is split into two parts, with the first half focussing on victimisation, lack of individualism and oppression, and the second on overcoming adversity, nationalism and personal identity.

Although combing thrash and groove metal, the initial half remains quite subdued thanks to the infusion of Alice in Chains-style grunge, creating an overall depressing tone. It works to some extent, but the genres never blend perfectly to create that epic metal moment despite plenty of build-ups. On top of this, none of the sounds are that new or unique, disallowing …Without Reserve or Regret to stand independent of its international influences, despite the strong musicianship on show.

Fortunately, the latter half takes things in a completely different direction, combining elements of Slayer, Pantera, System of a Down and even some early Drowning Pool. Again, the riffs are musically excellent, drums are bang on and vocals are decent, but it still comes across as being the younger brother of the bands they worship. That is, except for the guitar solos, which are all unbelievably fantastic tributes to classic thrash. Yet the music never quite reaches that intense drive and technicality that Nekröfeist are trying for.

Regardless, it’s great to see complex social issues covered in their music, and for that, Nekröfeist is to be commended. But for a band that focuses so heavily on national identity and the Americanisation of Australia, the irony of their choice to sing in American accents is pretty amusing, and does blunt the point somewhat.

Finally, everything about the production and mix on the album is perfect, unsurprising given the work of Darren “Jenk” Jenkins. Everything is perfectly balanced with just the right amount of volume on the drums to keep the driving force of the music alive, while giving each member the chance to strut his musical stuff.

It’s clear that Nekröfeist have the skill to play on the international stage, but until they draw a bigger gap between themselves and their influences, they’re going to remain in the shadows of their idols. For fans of American metal, especially groove and thrash, this is a great album to add to your collection, but for everyone else, …Without Reserve or Regret is a decent listen with intriguing content at its heart.

1. Cesim-137
2. Carbon Black
3. Grim Demise
4. Sweet Junkie Sleep
5. xoac
6. Australian Made
7. Death Ain’t Your Style
8. Between White and Wrong
9. Headless Parabolic Man